Archive for the ‘ Random Thoughts ’ Category

SERVAL – Sun’s Out, Guns Out Dance Party

It’s been a tough month. I’ve been going back and forth about whether I want to post anything about it, but I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster since spring break, and my indecision resulted in nothing, at least as far as blog posts are concerned. I’m feeling a little better, so I want to get back into posting on here. Which brings me to this:

So I did a thing. I’m kind of a DJ now. I’d been thinking about trying my hand at it for a long time, so when my house decided to throw a dance party, I asked if they’d be alright if I DJed it. And I did. It took me a week to find time to put together a video of it on YouTube, but now it’s done (obviously, since it’s right there). So, if you’re interested, feel free to check out my debut performance. There are definitely some mistakes, but I’m pretty happy with it, and I’m looking forward to another opportunity to DJ again.

League and Presence

I started playing League of Legends (or just League, for short) in my first semester of my undergraduate career, September 2013. While I can’t get exact numbers, over the following two years, I probably played more than 1000 matches across all of its game modes (a match usually lasts between 30 minutes and an hour), with nearly 400 ranked games during Seasons 4 and 5 (2014 and 2015). And I enjoyed it. Aside from my participation in musical ensembles and time spent with family and friends, it was probably my favorite extracurricular activity. If you’d asked me this August, going into my third year of school, I would probably have said that this trend would continue up to, and through, the present. But instead, my playing League ground to a near halt. My last match was during the first week of November. Over the course of the entire semester, I played fewer than 10 matches.

This change was not due to conscious choice. I still followed this year’s World Championship, watching replays of the games that I couldn’t catch live. I enjoy the gameplay, the strategy and competition in the game. And I still really enjoy playing and improving at the game, especially in the role that I have chosen as my “main”, support. However, I do have some ideas as to why I myself have played the game less often. I think part of it stems from my new living situation this academic year, in a house with eight other guys. One of the few down-sides of the new house I’m living in is the somewhat unreliable internet, which I’ve been wary of when deciding whether or not to play. On another note, some of the few matches I did play were among the most frustrating I’ve ever played. In one of my last matches (Thresh in a solo ranked), we had a great start, and I helped get both my ADC and my mid-laner fed (in normal English, I helped two of my teammates get really far ahead of their opponents), only to watch our team get dismantled mid-game by a Darius that had only barely won top lane (juggernauts are fun, right?). This semester also felt more busy, with schoolwork, with my three major musical commitments, and especially with my house-mates. Since none of my house-mates play League regularly, and I’ve spent more time with them, I had less time on my own, which I previously would have spent playing the game. Though League is a social game, in that a typical match requires a player to interact with nine others from anywhere in North America (each region of the world has an server to host the game), it is admittedly anti-social to anyone in the player’s direct vicinity (that is, unless they are playing together)

Despite my other distractions, I have found myself missing playing every so often. Throughout my winter break I’ve had the opportunities to satisfy one of these desires, but since I decided to leave my mouse at school during winter break, and don’t plan on learning to play on a touchpad, I’ve opted not to. Those times have afforded me the opportunity to reflect more objectively on the time that I do (or did) spend playing. I played a lot of League of Legends during my first couple of years of college, and I don’t regret most of that time. Some of my best memories of my second year were of staying up late with A and J trying to succeed in a ranked 3s team that either trampled the opponent or got steamrolled. And this past summer was made significantly more bearable by the numerous games I played over Skype with a group of friends from home, including one ranked 5s match where I played Jinx for the first time ever (we still won, somehow). Individually, League of Legends gave me, a definite introvert, a much-needed outlet: a competitive activity that I could enjoy without direct human-human contact.

That being said, there are times that I wish that I had spent less time playing.

The primary reason why I wish I had spent less time in League of Legends is that I want to be present. While I do need to spend time alone to recharge from being “burned out” from people, I was spending far more time than was required to satisfy that need, and I think that got in the way of more important relationships. Even if I am playing a game on the kitchen counter at home, my presence is in the game, not with my family around me. Since League is such a complex game, it requires a player’s attention in such a way that prevents authentic interaction with others that aren’t in the game. This reminds me of a portion of a talk given by spoken word and rap artist Propaganda: “Multi-tasking is a myth. You ain’t doing anything good, just everything awful.” You can’t play a game of League and spend time with others at the same time, doing both well. So if I need to choose between the game and the people I love, I would pick the latter.

So far, I guess that it’s worked. Though I’m working a full-time internship, much more of my free time at home has been spent with my family and with N. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’ve felt less torn about having limited time with them before going back to school.

I probably won’t stay away from League indefinitely. I’d say that it’s probably my favorite game that I’ve played, whether electronic or otherwise, and I’m sure that I will eventually play again. However, I hope that I don’t play as much as I did in the years before this past semester. I certainly don’t expect to play 200 ranked matches in Season 6, like I did in Season 4 or Season 5. As life tends to be, it is all about finding a balance, and I’m glad to be closer to that balance now than I was. Hopefully League of Legends will be a little more balanced when I return than when I left it.

It’s Vacation!

I’ve been out of school for a little over a month now, and so far the summer break has been pretty eventful. The end of my semester went smoothly for the most part, though my final exam schedule was a little weird this time around. My chemistry final was on the first day of exams, in the first possible time block. I wasn’t too worried about it, as I was already comfortable with most of them material before taking the class, but I was a little disappointed with how I scored. I did okay, but I know I could have done better. Modern physics was the next day, and it was definitely the test I was most worried for. After struggling through the class for most of the semester, the final was much easier than I expected. There were some questions that I couldn’t answer, and I don’t know that I got my score back, but I ended the semester with a decent grade, despite the difficulty I’d had with the subject matter.
After physics, which was on Friday, my last final was differential equations, on the following Thursday. Aside from studying, a couple of little marching band meetings, and other end-of-semester activities like packing up my room, I didn’t do much for those five days, and was able to hang out with friends a good bit. Differential equations was frustrating, but I was glad to be finished for the summer, and came home on the train the next (very long) day.

We had a week at home after that, and I hadn’t started work yet, so I got to spend time with N and adjust to the new house (my family bought and moved to a new home shortly after spring break, and this was my first time coming back to it). A week after coming home, we went to Europe!

Last May (2014), my dad taught a class for a few weeks in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and this year he was asked to come again. Instead of just his going, however, my parents decided that we would all go for some time. For a little over a week, we lived in an apartment in a villa about 10 minutes from the Old Town, which was a trading hub on the Adriatic Sea for many centuries. Now the city’s economy is driven primarily by tourism, which is helped by the fact that Game of Thrones has been filmed in multiple locations in the Old Town as well as the Hotel Belvedere, which has been abandoned since the Homeland War in the early 90s. Dad taught in the mornings, and the rest of us spent time exploring the city, swimming in the sea, or visiting one of the several museums presenting the history, art and culture of the city and region. My birthday also passed while we were there, and to celebrate dad and I went to the Dubrovnik Symphony’s performance of Beethoven 3, which was very fun. I really enjoyed it, and would have been happy spending another day or two there without getting bored.

At the end of our little stay, mom, T and C flew home to return to school (they were missing classes during our time abroad) and I flew to Berlin. One of my best friends since first grade, G, is studying in Dresden this semester, so I decided to take the opportunity of being in Europe to visit him. I had wanted to return to and see more of Germany since our exchange trip after Junior year of high school, so it was awesome that the week I was going to be there coincided with one of G’s breaks from classes.

I arrived in Berlin late on Sunday night (the 24th). G had been there for most of the afternoon, so I just met him at the hostel we were staying at. Monday morning we got up early in the morning to make our reservation at the Pergamon museum. Probably one of Berlin’s most popular museums, the Pergamon houses a large collection of statues and structures from ancient Egypt, Rome and Babylon, especially. The highlight for me was the Ishtar Gate, a massive dark blue gateway decorated with dragons and aurochs (ancient oxen). I’d seen pictures of the structure before, but they don’t really compare to the actual thing. We stopped for lunch at a well-known currywurst stand, and then spent the afternoon at the Jewish History Museum. The main exhibit was extensive, covering the political and cultural history of the Jewish people in northern Europe from ancient times to present, and we could have spent many more hours than we did there. The rest of the museum consisted of an architectural and artistic memorial to the Exile and Holocaust during the Third Reich. I would love to try to explain it, but I doubt I could do it justice. I highly recommend visiting, given the chance.

That night, we stopped at an excellent little pizzeria near the hostel and got two pizzas to go. We then made our way to the Philharmonie, the large concert hall complex that is home to the Berling Philharmonic. We ate outside, and then went and saw the orchestra perform Petrassi’s Partita for Orchestra, Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder, and Tchaikovsky 4. It was incredible. A little selfishly, I wish that the “first-string” horns (with Stefan Dohr and Sarah Willis) had been playing, if only to say that I had seen them play, but it was very good nonetheless. Thank you J^2 for helping to make that possible!
The next morning, G and I had breakfast at the hostel before meeting Herr B, our middle school German teacher, who is now teaching in Berlin at an Europaschule. A love of street art, he showed us a few of his favorite pieces, including the East Side Gallery. The longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, it has been painted multiple times, and has some of the most iconic pieces of art from the wall, even though it was repainted after the reunification. He also took us to a few interesting places in the eastern corner of the city, which neither of us had spent much time in. We chatted and caught up over lunch at a little schnitzel place before he had to leave.

G and I then made our way to the Technical Museum of Berlin. While many of the exhibits were directed at younger audiences, but still had a great time. The largest part of the museum was five floors filled with craft and artifacts from Germany’s maritime and aviation history, which was very cool. The best part, however, was a pair of railroad roundhouses filled with train cars and locomotives. My six-year-old self would have been in paradise. Again, it’s one thing to loot at pictures or diagrams of a 200-ton steam locomotive, and its all the more impressive when you can stand beside its driving wheels with meters wider than you are tall.

For dinner, we found a sit-down Italian restaurant, and both had a pasta dish. Afterwards, we walked to the Tempelhof Airport, which Herr B had recommended. Built in 1927 and expanded by the Nazi regime, the airfield was key during the Berlin Airlift in the later 1940s. It was put to rest as a functional airport in 2008, and has remained undeveloped since, so it is now a massive park in the middle of the city (much larger than New York’s Central Park). I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the place awed me. I would have loved to spend more time there (perhaps with a bicycle to ride up and down the runways), but it was getting late, cold and windy. Back in the neighborhood of our hostel, we visited Dussmann, a sizable bookstore recommended by K, a marching band friend and Berlinophile. We could have spent an hour or two in the room of classical music records alone (I ended up buying a recording of Shostakovich 11).

Wednesday morning, we got up early again to catch our train to Hamburg, arriving around 10. After getting lost a couple of times, we found the Johannes Brahms museum, which G wanted to visit. Located in one of the childhood homes of the composer, the museum was a small but worthwhile collection of pictures, letters, programs and manuscripts illustrating his life. G also enjoyed playing a piano built in that time by a favorite manufacturer of Brahms. More wandering led us to a little farmers market with street food vendors, so we stopped for lunch (spƤtzle).

After eating, we decided to go to the Tropen-Aquarium (Tropical Aquarium), next to the zoo. Once again, it wasn’t quite what we expected. While there were many fish and other aquatic animals, there were also several sections devoted to other types of animals, including snakes and other reptiles, spiders, and small tropical mammals and birds. The first room in the complex had a large family of ring-tailed lemurs, including one very friendly young lemur, just out in the open. The primates were fairly reserved though, and tended to avoid most of the visitors.
We headed back into the city center so that I could check into my hostel, and ended up just wandering on the Alster because it was too late to go to a museum. For dinner, we met a friend from one of the previous exchanges with the high school, A, had burgers, and then went to a small jazz bar to watch one of A’s friends play in a jazz combo. It was good, but G and I were both pretty exhausted, so we didn’t stay long.

The next morning, we had hoped to make it to a musuem before we had to leave. G was catching a train to the Netherlands around 12:15, I think, and my flight home was at 2, so I planned on making it to the airport by noon. Unfortunately, most of the more interesting museums were closed until 10 or 11 in the morning, which didn’t leave us much time. Instead, we ended up walking around more of the city, stopping at several churches and other buildings with impressive architecture. We accidentally stumbled upon the St. Nikolai Church, and didn’t immediately realize what it was because it was under construction, the steeple covered in scaffolding. Looking around, it because clear that the small square and statues “in front” of the steeple were actually where the sanctuary had been. After being renovated many times in its long history, with a two-year stint as the tallest building in the world, most of the neo-gothic cathedral? was destroyed during the fire-bombing of Hamburg, leaving only the steeple behind. Since then, restoration efforts have made progress on the steeple, but there are no plans to resume using it as a church, leaving it as a memorial to the destruction.

I flew home as scheduled. It was good to see G and explore Berlin and Hamburg, but I was also glad to get home. Since returning, I’ve resumed my work at my summer internship. The rest of my summer should be pretty quiet, which I am content with, although there are a few events here and there. I can explain those more in a later (and hopefully shorter) post.

Happy Easter

He is Risen!

After a long and unplanned, but needed, break from the blog, I’m back. Towards the end of last semester I needed to take some time off of writing to focus on work and studying, and I never restarted as I meant to. I’ve been meaning to make a post or two over the last couple of weeks, but this is the first chance I’ve really gotten.

Anyway, here’s a really quick summary of this semester. I’m taking four academic classes: chemistry (thermodynamics and kinetics), chemistry lab (primarily focused on methods and instrumentation), modern physics, and ordinary differential equations for physics majors. Chemistry has been pretty boring, as it has been mostly a review of the topics covered in AP chemistry. I’m still not particularly enjoying lab (my summer job ruined academic labs for me), but it has been more interesting and less time-consuming than the two semesters of organic chemistry lab. The toughest class for me has been physics. The material we’ve been studying, including relativity and quantum mechanics, is very interesting, but it’s very difficult to grasp, and as a result I’ve been behind the class for most of the semester. Lastly, I’ve been really enjoying differential equations, especially after the difficulty I had with calculus III. I don’t really like it when my teacher decides to assign three problem sets due in a single week, but I’ve found the math itself to be pretty fun.

Musically, my semester has been pretty busy too. I’m playing in wind ensemble, which has been fun. My favorite piece we’re playing with the group is also the most difficult: “Tulsa: A Symphonic Portrait in Oil,” by Don Gillis. 32nd notes should be banned at tempi greater than 160 bpm or so… I’ve continued to play in orchestra, with Brahms 4 as the highlight of our most recent concert. I don’t like playing it as much as Brahms 1, but it’s pretty good. We’ve started rehearsals for our final concert of the year, Beethoven 9. At our last rehearsal, they announced the highlights of next year’s season, including Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto, Beethoven 5, Appalachian Spring (again), Pictures at an Exhibition, and a couple of other pieces that I forget about. Unfortunately no Mahler or Strauss, but still looks like it will be a good year.

There are three and a half weeks left in the spring semester, and they’ll be busy. In addition to Beethoven with the orchestra and our normal wind ensemble concert, I’m going on a short wind ensemble tour to do a couple of concerts in another part of the state. It isn’t long, but it will still be fun. Between now and then, I have two chemistry group projects to finish. One is a presentation for lecture about the function of solar cells and how it fits into what we’re learning (salt solutions, electrochemistry and other things), and the other is a self-guided experiment into the composition of vanilla, using gas chromatography. I also have a chemistry exam, and I may have a differential equations exam, but I’m not sure.

Finals week will be a little strange again. My last day of classes is Tuesday, April 28th, and I have exams on Thursday and Friday of that week. If I have a chemistry exam final (we’re hoping that our teacher decides not to have it, but we’ll see), it will be Thursday morning. Chemistry is Thursday afternoon, and physics is Friday afternoon. And my differential equations final is Thursday, May 7th. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself for 5 days, but hopefully it will be pretty relaxing. I will need to move my things to wherever I’m keeping them over the summer, whether that’s in the house I’m living in next year (with 8 other Chi Alpha guys), or with some family friends again. I take the train home on the 8th.

Well, I’m not sure what else I want to say in this post. I need to pick a major soon, as well as classes for next semester. I’m leaning towards biochemistry now, for a number of reasons that I may explain in another post. Hopefully my next post will be a lot sooner than this one was.

Also, I’ve been listening too…

Library Day

This week is finals week. Because of my class schedule, however, my first exam (orgo) isn’t until tomorrow morning. While I did a decent job of studying on Monday and Tuesday, I did next to nothing yesterday. So today I had to put my foot down and get a bit done, preferably with as little technological distraction as possible. So my day has consisted/consists of three study sessions, for three hours each, in three different libraries, getting as much review of my semester in organic chemistry as possible. In between the first two, I got lunch, and now I’m eating dinner after practicing horn for a little while. I’ve survived the first two sessions pretty well, and it’s been really helpful. The major annoyance is how slowly each chapter seems to go. I’ve gone over 3 1/2 chapters in detail, but have about 6 more that I could cover (from later in the semester, I purposefully went over the first chapters we studied first because they needed more refreshing).

The one exception to the self-inflicted ban on technology is my iPod, because music helps keep me focused. In my first session, I listened to Jumping All Over the World by Scooter, Night Visions by Imagine Dragons, and Christmas Songs, by Jars of Clay. Second session: Church Clothes Vol. 2 by Lecrae, Forget and Not Slow Down Relient K, and Maslanka 4. I’m trying to stick to whole albums or pieces of classical music so that I don’t need to change it often. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to listen to for my last session, but I was thinking about Hillsong United’s White Album, or maybe some Tchaikovsky. Ironically, the classical music I think most people are able to ignore are the most distracting for me. Anyway, I’m going to go do that third session.

Tough Week Ahead

It’s December, which means I can finally let myself listen to and enjoy Christmas music. Not that I wasn’t allowed to earlier, it’s just a personal rule of mine. That being said, I don’t know how much Christmas music I’ll be able to listen to this week. It’s just that kind of week…

Today was pretty good. Normal lectures (physics and chemistry) in the morning, and then my last physics lab of the semester (on slit interference experiments) was at noon. Those all went decently, and I let myself relax for a little bit this afternoon. After catching up on my “I’ve Been Listening To…” posts, I watched YouTube videos for a little bit, and then had a horn quartet (one of four ensembles I’m playing in this semester, not counting basketball band) rehearsal from 5 until 6. And then I talked to my mom and dad for 40 minutes, just because. I ate dinner at N (French toast and fried chicken), and then talked to Grandmommy and Poppy for 50 minutes as I walked back to my dorm. So I hadn’t done any work yet when I got back to my dorm. Oops. At least it was a good day though.

Tomorrow is my last organic chemistry lab, and I’ve barely started my last lab report, which is due tomorrow too. After my lab, I’ll have a short horn studio combined class, playing my jury piece for the others in the studio to practice for the actual jury. And then I’m having “Hornsgiving” with the marching band mellophone section.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, this year I spent my Thanksgiving break with our family friends the Ks. Compressing 5 days into a couple of sentences, that was a much better decision than staying on grounds and sitting in my room for the better part of the break and getting all of my food from the one open convenience store on grounds, like I did last year. This year, I had a real surrogate family to stay with (rather than seeing fewer than 10 people on the way to scavenge for food), ate better than I have in months (as good as pita chips and nutella are, they don’t compare to homemade beef stew and biscuits for dinner), and had what felt like a true vacation instead of an extended weekend with no one around. I even ran a 5k on Thanksgiving morning, which went pretty well, considering I haven’t run seriously in several weeks. Besides actually going home, the only thing that could have improved my break would have been a win at in our football game against our rival school, which I went to with the marching band and didn’t get back from until 4:30 in the morning. Still recovering from that night…

Back to this week. On Wednesday, I’ll have normal classes and then my fourth and last orgo test, on catalysis, coenzymes and nucleic acids, before the final exam. We had a 3 hour review session on the test material last night, which was stressful because there was so much to go over, but helpful. I have some studying to do before the test, but I know what will be on the test and what I need to review, which is good. Just need to sit down and do it.

After my chem test, my week gets significantly more bearable. I will still have 2 orchestra rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday, problem sets for chemistry and physics due Friday, preparation for my jury on Saturday, and other normal homework assignments and classes, but it shouldn’t be that bad. So maybe this post should be titled “Tough Two Days Ahead.” Oh well.

On another note, I just (well, right before I started this post) solved a tough light interference problem using calculus, which may or may not have been as exciting as I thought it was, but is pretty cool.

I have more that I could say, but I need to start a lab report. Silly lab report.


Nearly a month has passed in the new school year, and while it has been a good semester all together, so far, there are several things that I haven’t quite gotten under control about being back in school, especially my body clock and sleep. So I’m making a few “new year’s” resolutions for this school year. Here we go:

  • I resolve to, so long as I am not actively doing work on it, shut my computer down for the night by 11:00 PM on weeknights.
  • I resolve to, on weeknights, be ready for bed (showered, teeth brushed, etc.) by midnight, enabling me to have a designated devotional time immediately before bed.
  • I resolve to go to bed by 12:30 AM or earlier every weeknight.
  • I resolve to leave my computer closed unless I am actively working or playing on it.
  • I resolve to write at least 2 short blog posts and 1 long post each week (not counting I’ve Been Listening to… posts.

That may seem like quite a bit, but the first three are all closely related, and should help me significantly with increasing the amount of sleep I’ve been getting each night, one of the biggest problems I think I’ve had so far.