Sunday, February 23, 2014

Life and Twitch Plays Pokemon

So it's been a really long time since I blogged. I have been thinking about lots of stuff to post recently. There is so much to talk about. I will start this with a quick update about me for those who actually care and then I think I want to discuss this whole Twitch Plays Pokemon phenomenon that has me and so many other completely enthralled.

It's now like February of my first year. That's kinda crazy. I finally started doing grading for Lab 1 and it went better than expected. Well for me anyway, can't say the students agree. I like to think it was their job to make me happy not the other way around. Or maybe that second one would come from the first. Regardless I am hoping this Tuesday and the rest of the week will be full of excellent reports so I don't have to be sad afterword. Other than grading I have two classes. One of which I don't care much about as it relates more to gaseous photochemistry, which is actually kinda interesting, and other physical principles of atmospheric mass transfer, that's the blah part. My other class is taught by my adviser, and is about environmental energy, which is actually really cool. I do like it and I find the methods interesting and useful. I have also (kinda) started on my research. I have an idea of what I will be doing and how to do it. Hopefully it will be progressing faster in the coming weeks. I am helping out with the MCS FLoS still and we have an event coming up soon that we need to do demos for. And outside of school I am watching lots of Youtube (Rooster Teeth, Pewdiepie, penguinz0, Rev3Games and The Sw1tcher). And that leads me to the main point of this blog. I have been totally entranced by this little 10 day (so far) stream called Twitch Plays Pokemon.

If you have not heard of this before you really should look it up. Here is a link to the stream, god knows how long it will be up and working. It is a really clever program that allows any person watching the stream to control the character by inputting commands. This may sound like a very basic thing and maybe it sound like any other video game, but it is very different when 50000-100000 people play at the same time. It is extremely chaotic and results in a fascinating social experiment. It has pretty much taken the internet by storm at this point.

I have now seen or heard it mentioned or spoofed in a dozen or more ways and from I don't know how many viewpoints. I am going to try to talk about it with many of these views in mind and present my own semi fleshed out idea of the event.

To me this program is a really amazing feat. My first thought of it when I started watching around day 2, was wow this is a proof of concept for the theory that if you give a bunch of monkeys a typewriter and enough time they can write the complete works of Shakespeare (or a similar thought experiment). My thought was that give these people enough time and they will eventually beat the game. Thinking about this thought now, is a really simplistic view of it though. Yes they will complete it obviously because there is no way to lose the game because it is rather linear, barring some ability to take some minor different paths, but you still end up beating the 8 gym leaders and the elite 4. Anyway, after following it for a week and watching other groups' reactions to it and forming more opinions on it I really think there is a whole lot more to be said.

There are some major differences between this stream and playing the game yourself. I will start by saying that the game itself presents almost no higher meaning (other than maybe the ethics of trapping animals and making them fight each other). So starting at that base point I believe some major differences between the game and program result in the program presenting some really fascinating comments on human society.

The first difference is the amount of people playing is on average 50-60 thousand more than it should normally be. It was created to originally only be a single person controlling the sprite on the screen. This introduces some mechanics that were never there in the original version of the game. This introduces much more chaos when playing. The way I thought about it first was it basically introduces Brownian motion to the sprites motion. For those who don't know much about physics, Brownian motion is what happens to very small particles as a result of being hit by other small particles; they don't move in defined trajectories, like passing a ball to a friend at a basketball game. They move more wiggly and randomly. In this sense the character can get from the Poke Center to the Gym, but it takes about 1000 more steps and 20 more pauses than should be required by a single player. This really introduces the element of randomness and complete chaos to the game. An added level of chaos is the presence of the 20-40 second lag time. Meaning if you tell the player to go down at this second, 20 seconds later your command will appear on screen. This may not sound bad, but when that down command changes the selected option from take the Pokemon out of the computer and erase that monster forever. That is a huge deal. I was just witness to one of the more well liked Pokemon being released not too long ago. It was devastating to me and thousands of others.

There are several topics I want to quickly mention and then I will talk about them individually because that last sentence reminded me of them all and I don't want to forget: Anarchy vs Democracy modes, Pokemon evolution in the narrative, Connection of all the players to the story, Spin-offs of this stream.

Ok that is what I could remember of my thoughts. So first I want to mention the two modes of the game. Anarchy is what was mentioned above, each person typing a command has the ability to persuade the motion of the sprite one to one; meaning your command will change the screen directly in one way or another. Democracy mode, which was introduced at a later time in the game is basically an average over some amount of time of votes. So say the timer is 10 seconds, in that ten seconds the players continue to type commands but the commands are averaged over that 10 seconds, so your command may not result in any changes happening to the game. This is taken from some person I saw on the chat several days back, anarchy is going nowhere, fast, while democracy is going somewhere slowly. So what tends to happen is people like anarchy because the sprite goes constantly, but usually takes forever to get where they want it to go. Democracy seems to be really effective when they are trying to get a very specific task done efficiently, but it takes much longer because of the averaging time. This evolution of modes of movement was one of the things that I really thought a lot about. It was created similar to the creation of forms of government through human history. Things were chaotic and so they created a system that would hopefully work to the best interests of the majority. Ok so human history had a few other routes first and it didn't work out so neat and clean, but realistically this hasn't either. Much to my surprise democracy almost never got used. I mean yeah it was slow but really it seemed to work out much better than anarchy. But now as time has gone on, it makes sense. It actually is not much better for time and really, it's not as entertaining. I just watched an interview where a gamer from Twitch, named Destiny, talked about this and why he thinks it happens. And it makes complete sense to me now, why democracy is not more used. It's because the point of this experiment is not to beat the game, as I thought, it is to have fun. It sounds silly and really simplistic, but it makes sense. Anyone in my generation has played this game and knows how to beat it. The fun isn't in beating it, the fun is in the narrative that has been created around the character and the Pokemon. I could speak on how governmental anarchy is not the same as this anarchy but that seems kinda pointless and less fun than the other points I want to make. Plus this post is already super long. So let's move on.

Pokemon is not really a story based game. I don't think anyone would give it awards for having a narrative. It's just fun to catch all the Pokemon you can. But this representation of the game is definitely different. It's interesting how much more entertaining stories are when you and 50000 others are writing it. Because of the randomness of button commands many absurd things happen in the game. For example Pokemon, after being caught can be named, well imagine 50000 people trying to type on a keyboard to write a name. You might imagine some names like "aaabaaajss" or "B-!)" it's not an easy thing. This makes people laugh and have a good time. And because these are nonsensical names, people need to come up with ways of pronouncing them or come up with random nicknames based on what they have done with those Pokemon. One story I will tell is about a Pokemon named "AAJST(???", this monster was a rattata, at one point or another this Pokemon, in the flurry of random button commands was taught the move dig. For those unfamiliar with the move dig, this move while useful in battle also has the secondary ability of instantly getting you from a cave to a Poke Center to heal your Pokemon. This is a super useful skill, but when a bunch of people are randomly hitting buttons you can imagine that this will accidentally be selected and result in a huge amount of progress being lost. Well this caused this Pokemon to get the nickname Digrat and similar names and it also got him to be one of the most hated Pokemon in the party. This is one of the things I was talking about, how people can create narrative even when there really is none to begin with. One of the guys on Rooster Teeth mentioned on the Patch how it is like a soap opera, which is a pretty good analogy. So later in the game at the Pokemon Tower, it was discovered that using the dig move in battle against ghosts was super effective and killed almost all ghosts instantly. This made a lot of minds change about Digrat and he got other nicknames like Big Dig. Well I am sad to report, if you have no heard, that today Digrat was released forever and is gone. I witnessed this and even though I am not completely up on the narrative of most characters I was so sad when it happened. It was really bad. Many people were upset about it. This is the impact that this playthrough has caused. It is a powerful look into the effect of cultural phenomena on people. I am intrigued by it and I hope others of you have some insight.

So moving on to the future of it. The game is still quite a ways from being done. It's over 250 hours in and there are still 2 gyms and the elite 4 left. For scale, I completed the blue version in 125 hours, and by that I mean I caught all 151 Pokemon and beat the elite 4 multiple times. At the time I was no more than 12 years old so I wasn't exactly good at games. It's also interesting to look at how long it took to finish each of the tasks. If you want to see their progress feel free to look at this site: But because this game took the internet by storm it has spawned others like it. One of which I read actually finished the blue version of the game. I did not watch that one at all so I know nothing about it but I was impressed when I heard that it finished in only 180 hours. I would be interested to know how many people were on it on average and what kind of system of motion they had. This kind of variability makes me think that this kind of gaming may be a really fun thing to play around with for game developers in the future. I would not be surprised if it managed to get a few game companies' attention. The future should be interesting regardless.

I realize this went on for a long time and I really feel like I have not talked much about anything. But I hope this brings people up to speed on the event and brings some discussion. I want to hear more and I have other ideas about it if people want to talk about it too. Let me know.

I also have some other ideas for blogs that I may or may not be able to get out soon. I have been wanting to blog a lot in the last few weeks, but time is limited. We will see. Well for those who actually have read this far thanks and please do comment with your thoughts on this whole phenomenon. Adios.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

First Grad School Post

Hey everyone,

This is my first post from grad school. It's been a really long time since I posted but I figured why not write one, even if I don't have much to say, just to start my grad school posts. So here is a little of what has gone on in the last few weeks.

So far I have two classes. One is taught by one of the professors I will be in lab with and it is about aerosols (I'm in a lab for atmospheric chemistry for those who don't know) and I actually am presenting a paper on Tuesday. Woo hoo. And my other class is on nanoparticles and it only very slightly involves the stuff I am going to be research, in that aerosols are technically classified as nanoparticles. Regardless the classes are not too bad. I kinda enjoy only having two. Aside from class I am a TA now (yay on the road to being a professor). It's actually really enjoyable. I like teaching the kids about how things work and what things they should look out for. Although it's kinda scary to think I (and 6-8 other people) am responsible for all these kids lives. So safety is a huge deal that I am trying to help them with as well. Other than those responsibilities I don't have much going on. I do shadow people in the CAPS labs so I can get accustomed to doing the research aspect of my grad school career (essentially the entirety of that career). But that is the school stuff I have been up to. Outside of that I have been involved with the MCS Future Leaders in Science which is an outreach group for chemistry and it's really awesome. This weekend actually there is a chemistry carnival and I am really looking forward to it and doing the demo with people. I am also hoping to see lots of kids and teaching them about science. Should be fun. =]

What else is happening? Good question. Honestly not much. My time at home is basically spent reading stuff for class and research, watching Youtube, and talking to my girlfriend. Not too much else. I have started watching Achievement Hunter/Rooster Teeth series on Youtube, for those who don't know they are a bunch of guys who play video games as their job. They are quite hilarious and I really suggest you watch them if you even remotely like video games and/or enjoy people-getting-mad-at-each-other humor. Oh another thing I recently did was purchase my first Humble Indie bundle. Probably the most awesome idea anyone has ever had. You get a bunch of games for whatever you want to pay. Ten bucks got me almost 10 games and I just beat one of them and it was probably one of the most awesome puzzle games I ever played. I really suggest it to people who have not learned about it yet. Those people do great work. I also started an anime last night called Steins;Gate. Very strange time travel/conspiracy anime. Not sure about it but I hope to finish it this week and I can give thoughts then.

One piece of bad news I just learned of a few days ago. My stream from Extra Life 4 Kids was not saved on the website I used and now it's gone forever. I am really upset about this, but we all move on. So if anyone has any plans to do a stream for the cause let me know I am totally game. I hope to make this a tradition if I manage to get better equipment for recording.

That is pretty much it. I have gotten situated in my house and am pretty satisfied with it. I finally get paid my first real check within 8 days. I can't wait to see how much it will be. I still haven't figured out how much tax will be taken out but if it's the same rate as the first minor check then I am looking at a lot of money. Yay!!

Ok well I just thought I would update everyone. Maybe I will come up with something more fun to talk about next time. Who knows. Adios everyone. Oh and feel free to visit me whenever you want. Just kidding but seriously I wouldn't mind housing one or two people for a night if you want to make a trip.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Yet another tragedy in this life we live

Being woken up 15 minutes early to the second phone call from your father that night is never a good sign. Yet that is how my day started. Then I got the news that my cousin had been shot. No details yet that I am aware of as to who did it or why. Have yet to see anything about this one of likely thousands of shootings so far this year. I find myself occasionally tearing up and yet I still go on with my day. It's just another day of school. But what I ask myself now is "How am I supposed to react to this?" What can I possibly do? Should I try to heal myself or my family? Do I just worry about the future of my own life or do I think about today? Should I mourn or move on? So I have decided that I will do what I do best. I will blog about it and celebrate the life that I know of my cousin, Andrew. I think he would appreciate it.

Andrew was my role model for nearly my whole childhood. Anyone could tell that just by the shear fact that I wore hats, liked the Dallas Cowboys (yes in the Philadelphia area), and wanted to be able to do cool skateboard moves even though I couldn't even stand on one without losing my balance. He was the coolest kid I knew. He was the one that got the girls and could do anything manly you can conceive of as an 8 year old boy. We had our times as kids. Every summer we would stay at either his mom's place or my house. We biked and played games and ran through the hall and flipped on my parents bed and did any number of crazy boy things. We talked about girls of course. We played lots of videogames, it's funny because I actually played through the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater just the other week, one of our favorite games when we were kids. And my roommate just got a new edition of Need for Speed Hot Pursuit which was by far his favorite and because of that it was my favorite as well. We always put in the code to get the McLaren F1 car. It was the "fastest car ever" according to him. Of course I believed him, and to this day I would believe that. What I lack in knowledge of cars (which is a lot), he more than made up for. Always one of his passions, up until his final days.

So many stories of days we spent together as kids. The early morning visit to the hospital because my dumb sister decided to stick her hand on the stove. The deep gash in Andrew's leg that he sustained while trying to fix his bike. The times I used to join him for his allergy doctor visits. I always thought he would end up dying by a bee sting because he was so allergic.

Unfortunately after those many summers of hanging out, we ended up going our separate ways. We never really saw too much of each other. He did his stuff with friends and girlfriends and I did my school stuff. He was never much of a school person but like I said he didn't need it with his insane knowledge and love of cars. I don't think I could live a complete life and ever know as much about cars as he did when he was 12.

So the next thing I know I am a college student and he has a kid. The first of my grandparents' great-grandkids. Cutest little girl in the world. Little miss Cameron. I don't want to be too modest but I taught her how to put the shapes in the correct holes. That was all my doing (Haha I'm just kidding, but I totally did). He learned as much from her as she did from him. He was an excellent father to his little girl. I hope that I have that same opportunity, to be a great father to my own child some day.

Well I don't know what else I can say at a moment like this. I am almost unable to read the screen past these tears as I type. But I want to reiterate a point I made on facebook a short time ago. I am here for my family. I know that Aunt Sharon is probably having the worst time anyone can imagine.

But this is for you especially but for anyone else as well. You were blessed with a great son. He had a great life and a great mother and family. He was a great father and although his life has come to a tragic end, he will continue to live on through everyone. Maybe not his superhuman knowledge of cars but every other quality can be embodied by us mere mortals. And thankfully for us, he was able to pass on his legacy to Cameron. Your beautiful granddaughter. She will be our connection to him for the rest of our lives. Never forget you have family that is here for you. Having a positive psychology class I try to continue to think positive. One thing that I know to be true is that people always overestimate the duration of emotions. There will always be the twinge of sadness, but the majority of the sadness will diminish over time. We will get through this. I hope this at least slightly helps everyone.

I'm not going to be cliche and say rip or anything like that. I want to say:

Thank you Andrew for living your life and allowing me to experience it with you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why do people live the way they do?

I feel like this is a completely rhetorical attempt at a post. It's really not a fair question, but I kinda want to hear from my readers. I just want to hear your thoughts.

Why do people live the way they do?

Why do certain people live like they do?

Why do prostitutes live to sell their bodies?

Why do addicts live to get the next high?

Why do drunkards drink every waking moment of their lives?

Why do scholars live to study?

Why do stay at home parents live to sit in their homes and provide a suitable home for their families?

Why do soldiers stay alive to provide a safe environment for their country men and women?

Why do charity workers help those in need?

Why do students continue with school even if they don't like it?

Why do you what you do on a daily basis?

I know that people have certain motivations for what they do (i.e. to put food on the table, psychological desire, fear, lack of other options). But... Why really? Are their really no other options? Can't people provide for families in other ways? What are our innate reasons for doing what we do? Even though some people aren't satiated by what they do, even though they become depressed and overall unhappy with what they do every day in a monotonous fashion. Why do we continue?

Or maybe there doesn't have to be a reason. Maybe our purpose is our purpose and that's all. Maybe there is no reason for our purpose in this life?

Another question based off of that previous one. Is there actually a purpose? Do we do what we do because we believe there is a purpose? Does there need to be a purpose?

Ok maybe I should stop before I get too existential. I suppose in the end this wasn't really a rhetorical question or an attempt to have audience participation. It was more of a musing that I hope my readers will dig just a little deeper into. My purpose here on this blog is to make you all think about stuff while I think more or less aloud to you.

Anyway, have a nice night or day depending on when you read this.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Changing the World

So it's been a really long time since I posted anything and I figured while I am in bed restless with nothing better to do, listening to a super inspiring band (aka Enter Shikari), and contemplating changing the world, I may as well post a blog about it.

I will post a warning now, this will likely sound like a rant from a drunken fool or a naive child, but I will do my best to string together some logical ideas if at all possible at this 2 am. And of course none of this ranting will do anything to actually change the world. That has to be done by the people of the world. Only actions bring change.

So the world needs to be changed. How old is this statement at this point in time? Every era has the same criticism and it does change, eventually. But never for good. Why is that? Hmmmm... Well thinking about it I think this is a question that cannot be answered in the amount of time I have before I fall asleep... or in my life for that matter. But how about a short blurb.

Humans are creatures of habit. They find a method that works and they keep to it until it no longer works or someone else finds a more effective way to do the same thing or that thing becomes unnecessary or outdated. So this same concept can be applied to political systems. We stick to the same system until it fails and/or falls to another "better" system.

Now this is what leads us to today. We have a system that... well let's quote one of the most revolutionary bands I have ever listened to:
"Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think the primary purpose of your life, of my life and the entirety of the human race's is just to blindly consume to support a failing economy and a faulty system, forever and ever until we run out of every resource and have to resort to blowing each other up to ensure our own survival. I don't think we're supposed to sit by idle while we continue to use a long outdated system that produces war, poverty, collusion, corruption, ruins our environment and threatens every aspect of our health and does nothing but divide and segregate us. I don't think how much military equipment we are selling to other countries, how many hydrocarbons we're burning, how much money is being printed and exchanged, is a good measure of how healthy our society is but I do think I can speak for everyone when I say, we're sick of this shit."

This kinda sums up everything I could ever say about this world. It's pretty sad to think about. That first statement is the strongest. It's not our purpose to do those things. No matter what you believe of humankind. Whether you think in terms of evolution and biology in which our purpose is to reproduce and become fit as a species. Or religion and our purpose is to get to heaven or do good unto others, or reach whatever your specific religion's goal is. Philanthropists try to help others. I guess if I am arguing these people's purposes are what they are, then there is likely some people who believe this is our purpose, to consume until the end. Maybe I am just blind but I don't see how this is a legitimate belief though.

I say this but I still see it. I see people do absolutely nothing to better anyone or change anything or even try to succeed or pursue their dreams. People are just stuck in their habit of not doing a damned thing. This brings me to the conclusion that habit is laziness. It is unwillingness to change ones life for any reason so as to conserve energy or whatever is the specific persons reason. People are too lazy and carefree to do anything.

To change the world we need people to want to change it. We need people with ideas and with motivation to get others to change it with them. A revolution does not begin on its own.

Well I think my time is almost up this fine evening. I am just about asleep and haven't said much of anything. That's disappointing. Well perhaps I will leave you with some of my hopes for my future.

I want to do a little research into things that have worked and things that haven't. Learning from the past is a necessary thing (also learned from Enter Shikari). I want to become a teacher at some point and I want to teach people chemistry, of all things. Because I still feel that science is the key to the future. But I want to integrate other ideas and lessons into the lectures as well. I also want to help create reform that no politician will. Because for me there is more at stake than a stupid reputation or something as pointless as pride. The future of the world is at stake now. We are losing out grip on what is real. It's really not ok. I will leave tonight by telling all readers to listen to a song or two by Enter Shikari. Please hear them out. And try to do something to help your fellow man. And here is one my favorites from them:
Enter Shikari- Juggernauts

"I'm not saying we could do better but given the chance we would try."
"I know that we still got time but I do not think we're invincible."

Good night fine people. Oh and happy new year.

Monday, June 25, 2012

UIUC Atlanta Conference

This was certainly a long weekend, but it was probably one of the best in my life. I got to meet a couple of the most amazing people ever. I got to network with some people about a few things. I got to present this summer research and I got $200 out of it for a second place prize in my category. It was a magnificent experience. As I sit here on the bus typing into Word, I am reminiscing back on the past few days and really truly cherishing the moments we had.

So we arrived on Thursday morning after an overnight bus ride. It was a long, uncomfortable ride which resulted in little sleep to start off this conference. By the time we got checked into the hotel and situated in the city, it was late breakfast/early lunch time and we had not eaten except for the foods that we had brought on the bus. So Kim, Rasheed, and I went to some place called the mall food court. It was exactly what the name implies. I got food at a Checkers. Then we walked around the place a bit. Then afterward I wanted to walk around the city to explore and Rasheed decided to accompany me. We walked a ways and got to a point where we were definitely lost. So it took us a good hour or more to figure out where the hotel was. By that time I was sweating profusely due to the fact that I was wearing long pants and it was like high 80s and humid, so I showered. Then naptime, then we were to meet up for registration for the conference itself. So the night ended with more talks on random stuff that I can’t remember at the moment. I just remember that there was a speaker who was really great about teaching chem and I wanted to talk to her for a little. Going up to her at the end was the best decision of my life. Not because of meeting her, which was definitely inspiring, but because I got to meet two of the most amazing Arkansans I have ever met (ok so they are probably the first two, but that does not diminish their amazingness in my mind). Laura and Jerry are the most intellectual people I have met in a long time. She is a straight math major, which is insane in and of itself, and he is a freakin triple major in math, physics and chemistry. Absolutely phenomenal!!!! For those who don’t know at one point was a double major in physics and chemistry with a minor in math. He, from the get-go, was my long lost twin brother. The group of us talked for a while, then decided to go to dinner. We all talked and got to know each other at the Metro diner, which was like a karaoke bar/restaurant. None of us cared to do it but we listened to others sing the classic rock that, at least me and my twin both love. We talked for hours about ourselves and the program and our majors and the universe and space and deep sea and all kinds of stuff. It was awesome. We really became quick friends. It was perfect, the friend version of love at first sight it seems. Over the following days we connected to a huge extent. So bed the first night was nice, much more comfortable than the bus seats.

Friday morning was extremely early. We had a half a day of talks. All on graduate school and things along those lines. We finished around 3 I believe. We then had the day to ourselves. Laura and Jerry went with their adviser to the aquarium. I remained in my room for a few hours so that I could research grad schools and perhaps look over my presentation. That didn’t work out exactly as planned but I did write a few emails. Rasheed, Josh and I decided to go out and get pizza for dinner. The others went to the Hard Rock CafĂ©. Jerry loved it. He is such a classic rock junky, it is so good. So that night was relaxing after dinner and getting ready for the presentations the next day. Something that I did with minimal effort because I was fairly confident in my presentation. After a while I just decided sleep would be best and I went to bed.

Saturday was presentation day. We had to present between 9 and noon. I got to see a bunch of great presentations on interesting research from around the country. Some actually pertained to my Widener research which I was really surprised about. I gave some people business cards and got some of my own. I presented and I was told by several people that I did well. It was nice to be recognized. After my presentation two people came up to me and asked for my information because they wanted to contact me with regards to their research and the applications to our research. It’s cool being able to talk to people about my research experiences and hearing others. I got to watch other people’s presentations too. And Laura presented too, which I got to see. I can’t say I understood it much at all, but it was really cool to see a (now) really good friend talk about things that I could never even fathom. I was thoroughly impressed. She did such a great job. She just needs to have more confidence in herself. Anyway, so then lunch with grad school recruiters and then a grad fair. I got some information from schools. Got some free stuff. I found out that Scripps sounds like a really great school. They have great benefits and I definitely will consider them for grad school. After the fair, I got to spend some more great time with Laura and Jerry, my newest best buds. We went to Jerry’s room to watch corny Syfy movies (ice spiders to be specific). After we criticized the hell out of that, we decided dinner should happen soon. Then somehow we got to the idea that we should visit the Coke factory. It was definitely the best plan. We got Rasheed and Josh and their adviser, Laura #2, and left for the factory. For $16 this was an absolutely amazing deal. We went in and got to the taster place. It has all the sodas made by Coke around the world. Some are really good, others (Beverly) are absolutely the worst thing I have ever tasted. We looked at the different exhibits, watch a 4-D movie, saw the factory, and saw the vault that contains the secret formula. It was absolutely worth the $16 that it cost to enter. We visited the taste thing again before we left. I am pretty sure I tried about 30 of the 64 flavors available. It was insane. My mouth and stomach probably hate me after all that acid, but it was necessary, for science. After the factory we went to Max Lager’s Brewery. That was also epic. I ate, for the first time, a bison burger. It was really good, not too much different than a normal burger, but it was still really good. Also got fresh brewed root beer. That was very different than A&W and Barq’s. It was good though. After that I was super full but decided since it was our last night I had to get chocolate cake. Me and Jerry and Laura shared it, also amazing. After that we all stayed and played pool upstairs for a few hours. What we didn’t know until we were leaving is that the place had closed a while before we left. The workers, somehow, did not realize we were there playing pool (an extremely loud game). But whatever, it made a great night, even more amazing. Then we went back to the hotel and played card games. That was fun, we played BS and hearts. Jerry was the first to hit the hay. That was around 1 I believe. After he went, the four of us talked about stuff and played hearts. We all were getting really tired. But we were resilient. Josh was the next to go at like 4. Then there were 3. We decided that we would continue to talk about stuff. Philosophy, school, grades, tests, all kinds of stuff. It was excellent. Gradually we got more and more tired. Laura was insistent upon staying up to see the sunrise. So we did. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to see it because there was a building in our way. But we tried. Then we realized we only had 3 hours until we had to be at breakfast so we should at least try to get some sleep. I returned to my room and packed up my stuff before taking a 1.5 hour nap. Then the final day began. I awoke feeling like I wanted to vomit all over the room. Not good. I felt awful, not really sure why. I’m attributing it to a combination of the complete lack of sleep and the awful stuff I ingested the previous day. I couldn’t eat breakfast even though it was the first time we got bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of fruit and bread. So I ate yogurt, a piece of cantaloupe, and corn flakes. We had a really good speaker. Unfortunately this would be the last time I see Laura, Laura, and Jerry. The speech was making me pretty emotional already, but seeing them leave was really, really depressing. I have been on occasion tearing up thinking about these awesome guys. I have officially made them my siblings in my mind. I will truly miss them and I really want to make an effort to see them again really soon. So that leads to the award ceremony. 7 people from UIUC got awards. I was luckily one of them. I received 2nd place in the Life Sciences category. I was happy to get it and 200 bucks. Then we packed and left. Now we are on the road back to UIUC. I have to say I really miss Laura and Jerry. I hope that I will be able to see them again soon.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

UIUC Part Who Cares

As you can probably tell from the title, I am not in a great mood. I think watching that philosophy lecture yesterday got me in a philosophical mood. So this morning I had a half hour of time to just sit and think and that's what I did. My usual philosophical crap. So now I'm not in a positive mood. Joy. I made a list of questions about life that I left at my room and I will add when I get back. I just wanted to start writing this out now while I'm in lab and Saumen hasn't arrived yet.

To add to this crappy mood, no colonies grew, AGAIN!! Well one of the plates has like 2 or 3 colonies on it but nothing substantial. I just don't get why they won't work. I don't know how anyone puts up with this work. I know for fact that I do not want to work with cells. It is way too annoying for not that much payoff. I would rather deal with flies at least I can see them before the last step of the procedure. But they are also prone to not following directions, that's why I am a chemist and not a biochemist. I just want stuff to actually work. This phrase has a double meaning in my case, conveniently.

And there goes the philosophy again. My major question on the paper back at my room:

Why am I cursed with thought and awareness of my life?

This may apply to other humans, animals, beings in general, but I do not know for certain. Regardless, I will apply all my questions in a personal frame do to my uncertainty of others' thoughts in the area.

I have been thinking about this a lot in the last year. Why do I need to be cursed with such an ability? Why can't I go about my life not thinking about anything? Why am I a thinking thing? Why do I exist? Is this my sole purpose? Does thinking make any difference? Why am I concerned with making a difference? Is there a reason for me to make a difference? It's to be remembered, isn't it? Why do I wish to be remembered? Do I need assurance that my life wasn't a waste? But how can I know that my life isn't a waste? I don't do much at all, why is this not a waste? Or is it? Am I just wasting my life? But what is life really? If there is an afterlife, why live at all? Assertion 1: There can't be an afterlife, it's too easy. Making this assumption, then I must live. But what is the purpose of living? Assertion 2: To learn, to know everything. I have a purpose. But what if that purpose does not work? What if it cannot be fulfilled? What if I waste my life and do not fulfill this purpose?

I cannot answer that question... If I do not fulfill my goal, I did waste my life, didn't I? What if I make a second purpose? Can I have two purposes? Can one being be living for two reasons? Assertion 3: Second purpose-

Just found a site with points identifying the thinking of Existentialists:

1. they are obsessed with how to live one's life and believe that philosophical and psychological inquiry can help. CHECK

2. they believe there are certain questions that everyone must deal with (if they are to take human life seriously), and that these are special -- existential -- questions. Questions such as death, the meaning of human existence, the place of God in human existence, the meaning of value, interpersonal relationship, the place of self-reflective conscious knowledge of one's self in existing. CHECK

3. Note that the existentialists on this characterization don't pay much attention to "social" questions such as the politics of life and what "social" responsibility the society or state has. They focus almost exclusively on the individual. CHECK, kinda

4. By and large Existentialists believe that life is very difficult and that it doesn't have an "objective" or universally known value, but that the individual must create value by affiriming it and living it, not by talking about it. CHECK

5. Existential choices and values are primarily demonstrated in ACT not in words. CHECK, though I could do it more personally

6. Given that one is focusing on individual existence and the "existential" struggles (that is, in making decisions that are meaningful in everyday life), they often find that literary characterizations rather than more abstract philosophical thinking, are the best ways to elucidate existential struggles. not sure what they mean, but I don't think so

7. They tend to take freedom of the will, the human power to do or not do, as absolutely obvious. Now and again there are arguments for free will in Existentialist literature, but even in these arguments, one gets the distinct sense that the arguments are not for themselves, but for "outsiders." Inside the movement, free will is axiomatic, it is intuitively obvious, it is the backdrop of all else that goes on. CHECK

I think I am an Existentialist. At least as far as this characterization goes, I am for the most part, all of the above (minus #6). Interesting. Good to know where I stand in my philosophical endeavors. Though I am certain this is not the only school of philosophy with which I am involved. This is very interesting to me.


A nice side note for once. Well now that I lost my train of though I guess I will stop for the moment. At least while I am here in lab. My mood has marginally improved since this morning. I will probably commence writing later in the day. I hope to be able to get the a store called County Market to check out if prices are any lower than Walgreen's. It would be nice if they are. Although that would mean that I need to walk 2 miles to get there from my dorm and 2 more back with groceries. I may start using the buses if that is the case. Well regardless. Have a philosophical day.