elwen: (Default)
I have been trying to return to a semblance of normal life (to the extent I even know what "normal" means anymore). But it's hard.

Since I last posted, here are some things that have happened:

We finished the trial on April 7. After flying back from DC, we dove straight into post-hearing briefing, which was 3 weeks of probably worse hell than the trial itself. I definitely set records at the end for least amount of sleep in a week.

Then I spent the first week of May hovering around at work not really getting anything done. On Friday, James and I drove down to San Diego. We spent two days at the Solamar lazing around and getting to know the Gaslamp district. Then we went to the zoo and Sea World. The weather was deceptively cool, and now I have a really stupid-looking tan -- the remnants of a sunburn. I went to the zoo with my family in December, but it was much nicer with more daylight hours and fewer crowds. Last time we skipped the pandas because there was a four hour wait, and didn't get to see the tigers because it had gotten dark and we kept getting lost on the Hippo Trail. This time we could walk right in to see the pandas, and over two days managed to wander the entire park. The only thing we kept visiting but never saw was the kiwis.

I took lots of pictures in San Diego, but I have been horrible about pictures this past year, so I won't try to predict when you'll ever see them. I still need to organize pictures from (1) trip to Disneyworld and Universal Studios Florida (including lots from the World of Harry Potter) and (2) trip to SoCal in December with my family.

After San Diego, we went to Pasadena for our five-year reunion. Only three people were at the dinner on Friday. At first they tried to squish us into a room with the class of 2001, which would have resulted in, at best, one of us at each table, and more likely with one person still seat-less. So they put us with a couple 1996 people instead. It was kind of funny because we were like mirror images (a Mole, a Rudd, and a Skurve). Fortunately the third person was Andrei, the only other person from Lynbrook my year, as well as a fellow ChemE, so we had a good conversation. They took pictures of each class before the dinner, and I wonder where they will show up. Us holding a check that none of us had contributed to...

Associates Tea on Sunday had better turnout. Plus there were people from classes above and below us -- not just multiples of five -- whom it was good to see.

Then we drove back up, and the fight for normalcy began. Today's the first day I managed to get up and drag myself into work before noon. But I'm still struggling to bill even one hour a day. Fortunately, the ITC case gave us enough buffer that we could do nothing for May and most of June and still be okay.

Also, I decided to clerk for the judge, which I will be starting in September. People seem pretty supportive, but I know I disappointed people at the spinoff firm, and it's hard not to have regrets. But like every time I make one of these decisions, I just have to stick with it and not look back. I will wend my way to a brief writing-filled career yet...
elwen: (Default)
Going to Tech changes you in small ways. Like, in how you react to hearing the Ride of the Valkyries.

After Tech, hearing the Ride triggers a whole panoply of emotions. Partly furtiveness, as in, "I hope no one catches me and showers me." Partly a nervous/annoyed tic because of how the song has become associated with finals and stress. And a healthy dose of nostalgia. Ahh, good ol' wacky Tech traditions.

I still remember the night a super-senior stood up with a story (story!) about how she turned on her car and the radio was playing the Ride, and she went "ahh!" and quickly changed the station. Then it rained overnight, so it seemed the car got what was coming to it.

Almost the same thing happened to me today. None of my modern music stations were playing anything good (Sunday afternoons, bah!), so I switched to the classical station, and they were just starting to play the Ride. It was raining, and I kept running from car to door and from door to car without an umbrella, so I think both car and I adequately wetted for the incident.

Originally, I was thinking of making this a voice post and playing the Ride at the end, and inviting any Techers to shower me the next time we see each other. I guess it's like the Tech version of a Rickroll. :D

[For non-Techers: one of the traditions was to play the Ride of the Valkyries as loudly as possible at 7am during finals week -- to remind people to wake up and turn in their finals. Playing the Ride was verboten at all other times, and was punishable by showering.]

There are lots of Tech traditions I wish I had participated in more while I was there, but I think I got a good amount of mileage out of the Ride. As a frosh during my first set of finals, I borrowed some big speakers (at least enough to wake up all of Tunnel) and got up early to play the Ride. With a twist: I cut off the Ride halfway through and switched to Christmas carol chasers instead. Only, I managed to switch over at a part that actually sort of blended with the first carol, so it wasn't the jarring, record-scratching type of break I wanted. Phil told me afterwards he didn't notice at first and was like, "Hey, I don't remember this part..." One of the super-seniors apparently did notice and spent several minutes yelling at me along the lines of "You're not supposed to do that! You have to play the whole Ride!" Afterwards, she could not remember any of this and claims she would not have minded what I did. I guess those are the kinds of things that happen when you're woken up during finals week at 7am by the Ride.


Jul. 2nd, 2009 03:06 pm
elwen: (studying and classes)
BarBri is eating my life. It's strange how, for a while, it seemed manageable, and then I fell behind one day and since then it's like I can't manage to get anything done. Maybe it's just that this is an endurance test, and I am losing.

It's not that I'm not absorbing information anymore. (Though I haven't tested retention lately.) More that I just can't find the willpower to study instead of goof off.

It doesn't help that the BarBri system frustrates me for various reasons. First of all, they grade some of your practice tests, which is immensely helpful, but they front-loaded the grading, so that I've turned in everything now, and at that point I had only gotten one graded essay back. Which makes it quite useless in incorporating feedback and tracking progress.

I also got my one graded performance test back today, and it pissed me off because the grader gave me barely any feedback and then failed me. On one of the parts where I failed, use of cases, there was one comment that said "Use Robins," and that pissed me off because (1) I did, later in the answer, and (2) their own damn put-every-last-thing-in answer didn't mention Robins even once. WTF?

I know. This is a minimum competence test, and BarBri is a lowest common denominator program. But I think they're not helping anyone's mental condition by jerking us around first with the harsh grading and then giving us the lecturer who reassures us that anyone can pass as long as you can make up a rule and apply it to the facts. (He said it so many times, I bet most people started to believe him, when we all know the pass rate is around 50%.) I waffle between trying to reassure myself and panicking that I suck at the performance test and I don't know how to improve because none of the practices I do will be graded and apparently I don't know myself what to be looking for.

I think I'm almost better off not looking at my graded essays and just pretending to myself that I am passing. Especially since only now am I beginning to fully internalize the IRAC structure and oh look, they aren't going to be able to tell me how I'm doing.

It's too bad BarBri is a big, heartless, money-grubbing monopoly, and wouldn't care about how they could improve their program because it works well enough. Like I said, lowest common denominator.

...okay, I feel a little better now, I think. The ranting was cathartic, and not what I had originally planned to write. What I did want to write was: BarBri lecturers randomly mention Caltech as a euphemism for top scientists and engineers. Most of these people aren't even from California, and I wonder, "How do they even know about Caltech? Why aren't they using MIT instead?" Is it just because this is the California BarBri class? Do they think it's like supporting the wrong sports team? I just don't understand.

In case you're curious, the two instances when Caltech came up were:

1. In the torts lecture on trespass, he emphasized that there must be something physically entering onto the plaintiff's land. And people had asked him about smoke. "'Smoke is made out of particles,' you say. You guys must be from Caltech. Let's keep it simple, okay? Maybe if it's really dark and drops soot."

2. In today's community property lecture, we got to classifying businesses that a spouse had owned and run before marriage. The key is whether the increase in value to the business is attributable to the spouse's skill and labor or to his making a good investment. The example of the second was a wife claiming she had just been in the right place at the right time, had hired some brilliant "Cal Tech" programmers, etc.

I don't know. I just can't help making a fist-pump when Caltech gets mentioned by these people. Perhaps it's just an indication of how awful the rest of BarBri is.
elwen: (studying and classes)
I forgot to mention this when it happened:

Sometime last week, I was dozing off at a carrel in the library again. Some people (a class?) were watching some film in a room off the main study room, which apparently has pretty crappy soundproofing. Still, it wasn't loud enough that I couldn't fall asleep perfectly well.

The next thing I knew, I awoke to the Ride.

They must've figured out it was too loud at that point, because I don't remember hearing anything else after that. No chasers. =/
elwen: (Default)
Random excerpt from a journal entry in 2003 that I stumbled across just now and found interesting:

So for my birthday today, we had lunch at Todai -- free lunch makes for a good birthday tradition.  Our waiter there turned out to be someone I knew from high school, not well, but I recognized him in spite of a very different hair style, and back then he was one of those friendly Asian guys who knew my reputation.  We chatted a couple times when he came by or we crossed paths; he knew I was at "CIT", and he asked me how it was.  When I told him that it was hard, his eyes kind of widened and he asked, "It's hard there?  Even for you?"  It was almost a second before I remembered, 'Oh yeah, back in high school I was considered to be among the best students.'  I guess two terms at Tech, even on pass/fail, is enough to make you forget.  Kind of like, "You mean, there was a time when homework and classes were easy?!"  No, really, I don't even know how I compare to others at Caltech; it's not the kind of place where you bother to tier yourselves very much.  . . . .  It's what I wanted: to be studying with the best minds, to be challenged, to not be singled out as the one to be "taken down" if one wanted to be the best.  And I don't regret that one bit.  It was just kind of weird to be reminded of . . . hm, what?  Who I used to be?  I don't think I've changed that much personally.  Of what my surroundings used to be, I suppose.  I'm in a totally different environment now.

I would muse some more -- about how I'm still in a world that's much like Tech: full of very smart people but not all that competitive; about how I seem to masochistically seek out places where I will feel inadequate -- but I really should get some work done. Not least of which is writing thank you letters to a firm where I would definitely feel intimidated and outclassed by the level of talent and from which I would really like an offer. Somehow, I just can't seem to escape this pattern.
elwen: (Default)
My last Prefrosh Weekend is over. Talking about how it was our last game of Capture the Flag, it struck me that I'll be leaving this place sooner than I think, and for a few brief moments I tried to imagine never coming back here again. Never living in these dorms or hanging out in these houses. It was very jarring. I'll visit, of course, but that's hardly the same, just like with high school.

I could dwell on that a lot more right now, but let's not.

It occurred to me, talking to my prefrosh, that seniors make horrible hosts. At least in the sense that hosts are the student the prefrosh talks to the most about what Caltech is like and such. I mean, we've just finished making difficult decisions about where we're going after we graduate, and that gives us a very different perspective of Caltech. I was telling prefrosh all these things about how Caltech pushes people into grad school, even if a lot of us don't really know that that's what we want to do. On the other hand, if you do know that you want to go to grad school, Caltech is an awesome place because you get to do research with famous people who will write you recommendations. I do think that's something people should think about in choosing a college, but I can't say that I did. I'm sure prefrosh are a lot more worried about the transition from high school to college than 4 years in their future.

I think the best hosts (or people to talk to in general) are sophomores, followed by juniors, frosh, and seniors. Sophomores have been at Tech long enough to see what it's really like -- in contrast, frosh haven't even taken exams on grades yet -- but they probably still remember high school a lot better than I do. In light of those criteria, the rest of the ordering should be pretty self-explanatory.

My prefrosh this year reminded me a lot of my prefrosh last year, who ended up coming here. [Someone told me that she hates it here, but I don't get that vibe at all when I talk to her, so who knows?] Then again, I'm guessing most prefrosh can be sorted into a small number of categories. In this case, I got the outgoing, somewhat overconfident types. I played board games on Thursday night, which drew more of the quiet girls, like myself when I was a prefrosh. I won't go into the categories for guys, but, unfortunately, most of them are obnoxious in one way or another.

CTF was kind of a letdown. I knew going in that the Prefrosh Weekend game tends to suck because the prefrosh either don't understand the rules or don't follow them. [Last year, I did a lot of escorting people to jail because it let me chat with the prefrosh as we walked. But they'd always run off the moment I left them, when the rules clearly state they're supposed to count to 20.] The first game ended rather quickly when the prefrosh who grabbed our flag promptly ran out of bounds with it. The second game was considerably longer, but still ended with the other team coming to take our flag from a direction we thought was off-limits.

I guess it's midterms week now, or something. I think I may only have 1. W00t.
elwen: (Yukino)
So due to too many people wanting to do the Harry Potter stack, I ended up being kicked off at the last minute and not being able to do Pirates of the Caribbean nor Silmarillion either, so I signed up as overflow on the "Where is Mr. Rogers?" stack. It was lots of fun, though, and seeing the Harry Potter stack, I think I would have been more disappointed if I had just done one of my secondary choices and not even tried to get a spot. [However, [livejournal.com profile] eaudrey and [livejournal.com profile] smamole are both required to give an account of their activities in gory detail, under pain of death.]

So Mr. Rogers was kidnapped, and we, the people of the Land of Make Believe, were to travel to the real world to find him, being the ones who knew him best. In the morning we visited a few places in the Land of Make Believe, gathering things we would need later, like a guide to sign language and book about the trolley. We had to find the trolley station and wait there until the trolley came to take us to the real world. Apparently people really liked the trolley, which was just two boxes glued together with their bottoms cut out and painted red, and we just walked along inside them. But all the people we passed stopped to take pictures of us, including some people from the Star News who jumped in front of us to snap pictures and then was frantically taking notes about the details of our stack.

We arrived in the real world in Mr. Rogers' house. Which happened to be Munth. We all had to struggle with that image for a bit, finally concluding that Mr. Rogers must have been kidnapped so they could use his house for a beer party. The FBI investing the case asked us to interview the neighbors and see if they knew anything.

We visited Handyman Negri and performed a skit for him, which we ended up doing two more times during the stack because everyone wanted to see it. [The stackers had gotten puppets of their character in addition to costume elements, although I didn't have one because I was overflow.] The story was about how Daniel Tiger had the willies, and Lady Elaine wanted them, too. King Friday thought he could command her to have them, but it didn't work. Then Queen Sara came and told her how they just came to people, and Lady Elaine was disappointed. Just then, though, X the Owl flew by and Lady Elaine got the willies and discovered how unpleasant they were.

Handyman Negri sang a really funny parody of Ghostwriter in the Sky for us, about ghost Techers in the sky trying to take revenge on their math professor who had killed them with problem sets. Then we followed a trail of food, each one telling us what came next, that led us back to Munth for lunch.

After lunch we went 'to the pool "by the sea"', which was the pool in Del Mar. There was a doll in the water, tied to cement block but kept afloat by balloons. We tried to fish out the doll with the pool net, but it tore and we ended up with the head and legs, which didn't seem to have any clues. So we dragged out the cement block. We'd already seen a sledgehammer nearby that said to "be considerate of neighbors" and use it responsibly, so we rotated smashing at the block until we got the clue. [I thought having brute force of a Mr. Rogers stack was kind of odd, but it's the only time I've ever gotten to do it, so I can't really complain.] Apparently the doll had been for voodoo, so we were told to look for the culprits' DNA.

That led us to the Gene Pool where Mayor Maggie was waiting for us. Except she spoke to us only in sign, and we spent quite a while trying to figure out what she was saying and trying to ask her about Mr. Rogers. It was a lot of fun, though, looking up words and trying to hold a conversation with her. I hope she wasn't too frustrated with us, because she did have to repeat herself a lot and ended up showing us gestures from the book to help us figure it out.

Then we went to Chef Brockett, who gave us popsicles and a clue with a picture of a pea plant and suggested that we try singing to see if a neighbor would come help us. We went to p plant and did as told, and met Keith David, who was supposed to show us a secret message on a card we had. Only we had accidentally given the card to Chef Brockett, who had thrown it away, so we had to track him down and fish it out. Then we had a pen that was supposed to reveal the message. We tried scribbling over the card, but nothing happened. Apparently the pen had a UV light on the end, and the ink showed up only under UV. Fortunately, we had scribbled on the wrong side of the card, so we could still read the message that told us to go the auditorium.

We had a clue that told us we couldn't open it before we'd interviewed all the neighbors, so we got stuck at this point because we hadn't met Neighbor Aber, but it turned out that he was sick. So we opened the clue and found out that it was Broad Auditorium. On the way there, we were attacked by people from the Pulp Fiction stack posing as the kidnapper's henchmen. This was the only unpleasant thing that happened, as they underfilled the balloons so that they hurt on impact, and apparently some of the balloons were dirty and I ended up with mud in my pocket. They were also just generally being jerks about it and didn't do anything to indicate that their actions were part of our storyline, although we knew it was part of their stack. We argued a bit about this with one of the people who helped with the stack. I still think the fault lay almost entirely with the people on the Pulp Fiction stack. There was nothing wrong with the idea of having their stack intersect with ours, but they handled it extremely poorly. After being hit a few times, we asked them to stop, and they just retorted that it was part of their stack, and my impression from their tone and attitude was really that their stack had just told them to go harrass other stacks. But I guess some fault may lie in the seniors, as I think it's pretty obvious that the kind of people who would sign up for a Pulp Fiction stack are going to be somewhat violent, and the kind of people who would sign up for a Mr. Rogers stack might be somewhat averse to it. So we didn't take it very well.

Anyway, we made it to Broad Auditorium and rescued Mr. Rogers. We were basically done with the stack, but while we were having ice cream floats, the FBI agents arrived, having captured the kidnapper, Keith David. Apparently he resented Mr. Rogers for his perfection and just couldn't stand it anymore after Mr. Rogers saw him picking Neighbor Aber's flowers. Mr. Rogers forgave him, and we had pizza to end the stack. We also had extensive conversations about anime, Japanese language, and Chinese culture, since it turned out that the lady who had been Mayor Maggie was an avid anime fan.

So it was a fun Ditch Day. As much as I wish I had been on the Harry Potter stack, I think it was more educational to do mine. [But the hats and cloaks and wands were so cool...] It's easier to create clues when all you need to do is follow a storyline you already have. I saw Fluffy guarding the grate in the middle of the lawn south of the Gene Pool and all the keys hanging from the ceiling of the dining hall with the locked chest and broom on the table. But after seeing all the themes this year, I'm not sure there are any themes with such strong storylines and well-known enough for me to do. So seeing the variety of things on the Mr. Rogers stack will be helpful for our Tomorrow. I mean, as totally amazing as the Lord of the Rings stack was, we did basically spend the morning playing FUCKED. There was nothing remarkable about it, and the only thing that kept it truly interesting was the hope that with the next clue we'd find another shard of Narsil. That's what I meant by having strong storylines. And with those kinds of things, you really need to choose something well-known enough that everyone on the stack is doing it as a top choice and can really appreciate the attention to detail. I'm not sure there is really anything left for me like that.

I mean, we had been thinking of doing the Silmarillion, which was done this year. I had also considered Ender's Game, which ended up being a huge Ruddock stack. There was an Ocean's Eleven stack, and Shipwrecked, and Fantastic Four, and Indiana Jones, and Calvin and Hobbes, and Disney princesses, and World of Warcraft, and Halflife. The Blacker stacks were Harry Potter, "Sex in the C.I.T.", Pirates of the Caribbean, the Art of Gardening (also known as "the art of getting arrested"), Where is Mr. Rogers, Pulp Fiction, Silmarillion, Godel Escher Bach, and American Gladiators.

Well, I'm sure if I think about it hard enough, more stack ideas, even of the story-driven variety, will come to me. I'm considering creating a friends group of authorized individuals to post about Ditch Day ideas and planning. Alumni and ghosts: how kosher is this? Is it being too open? Is the danger of discovery too great? Are we just supposed to keep this kind of stuff to ourselves?


elwen: (Default)
[Not sure what that comes from. It just popped into my head.]

Apparently Avery seniors staged a fake Ditch Day today. I'm not the only person who assumed it was just Scurves being noisy and went back to bed. It's nice to know that Avery seniors are doing fakes, I guess, although I wonder how many will have real stacks.

This is another example of where Avery is hurt by not having waited dinners, though. Prefrosh Weekend showed the two extremes. On Thursday night, they arranged a special buffet dinner, and invited a whole lot of profs to dinner and the reception afterwards. It was most impressive. My prefrosh spent dinner talking to Ken Libbrecht about the physics department, and then at the reception heard about humanities double majors from Warren Brown before being mobbed by people like Tom Tombrello, who offered to send her a DVD of Stephen Hawking if she emailed him, and Steve Frautschi, who were both full of stories about Feynman and Politzer and Pauling. The way some professors dote on Avery is definitely one of its strengths, and the turnout we get to these student-faculty types of things.

And then there was Friday dinner. Due to a miscommunication, the dining staff didn't even know prefrosh were coming and almost didn't let them eat because they kept insisting prefrosh were supposed to have some ID that could be swiped. [They'd done that on Thursday as well.] And since it was International Week and the food fair was outside, there were maybe three Avery residents around. Most of the prefrosh just sat and talked amongst themselves, although I managed to snag one before I had to get ready for the concert.

So the International Week thing was exceptional, but the Friday case is definitely closer to the "normal" Avery dinner. There is not this sense like in Blacker that I can just walk in and sit down at any random table and probably hold a conversation with the people there, too. And it's not like Avery can invite profs to dinner everyday during Rotation, so this is the side that prefrosh are going to see.

Then again, who knows how the joint dinners in Chandler will go.

Unrelated thing that I was going to tie in to the "morning" theme: I went to PCC this morning to collect rye grass for my research. It made me realize just how obsessed Caltech is with having meticulously kept lawns. Is this where our tuition goes?


May. 5th, 2005 04:13 pm
elwen: (Default)
Will be living in Avery 132 next year. The pick right above me took 240 Michigan. In the end, it's probably a good thing, as I would have been really torn between picking a single in Avery and picking the house, and this way the frosh can't blame me for not pulling them in. Still, it might have been neat to live off board and in a house and all. Ah well, plenty of opportunities for that in the rest of my life.

So now I should definitely push for my alley names. (No, not the Nazi ones.) Ryan said he was going to call one of the alleys "Bridge", and Arthur had repeatedly been suggesting that we draw from [Norse] mythology, and the combination set off a wild train of thought that goes something like this:

Instead of Bridge, Alley 7 is Bifrost. Then Alley 8 is Midgard, and Alley 6 is Asgard. Alley 1 is Niflheim, and Alley 4 is Muspelheim. Then Alley 5 would be Hel(heim).

Alley 2 and Alley 3 (where I'll be living) are still kind of open at the moment. Before I had Alley 2 as Vanaheim, since it's under Asgard, but you could also switch Alleys 6 and 8 and make Alley 2 either Jotunheim or Svartalfheim. Alley 3 could be Ginnungagap, because it's between Niflheim and Muspelheim, but that's long and hard to say and not as cool-sounding as the other Norse names. Right now I'm wondering what might be closest to a land of trolls in Norse mythology -- I thought Ymir gave birth to an eight-headed troll, but apparently there weren't enough of them to have their own world. Because trolls live under Bridge. :P
elwen: (Yukino)
Interhovse was awesome. [Pictures to follow, as soon as I get some shots in the daylight.] A shame we weren't allowed to run up and down Relativity, but it made a great entrance piece. I didn't even realize that the faucet was being built; it came out beautifully. The dance floor was awesome, and completely packed with people. The tiers along the side was the coolest second story ever. The murals were beautiful, and the themed food was amazing. You'd think that the cultural themes we've had the past two years would be easier to cook for than Escher, but creativity wins in the end. Mobius strip cookies, tesselating jello, a chessboard made of brownies, they were almost too cool to eat.

I helped a bit with decorations for the dining hall. We made tons of paper cranes and some really cool polyhedra out of unit origami. We hung them from the ceiling and had blacklights that made them look really neat. There was also a mobius strip with ants on it, although I don't think it got enough of a spotlight.

This weekend was also MIT's "preview" weekend, and some Lloydies flew up there for some pranks -- or "hacks", as the MIT people call them. It sounds like a lot of Techers want a shirt, too. I wonder how many prefrosh will come next week who have one.

ETA: The site got slashdotted and so is currently down, but, um, you should see it when you can. Basically they handed out t-shirts that said "MIT" on the front and "because not everyone can go to Caltech" on the back. And they put inflatable palm trees everywhere and they released a balloon that said "C.I.T." on it and such.


elwen: (Default)

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