Despite my best intentions, I’m back to my usual journal-writing habits: an update every couple of weeks, right before I’m about to start doing any real work.
I guess I would write more often if I actually did real work more often but, alas, that is not the case :).
School’s started and I’m slowly readjusting. I’m taking three real classes and they’re all quite boring, one because the lecturer is bad, the second because I know 70% of the material already but really want to know the last 30%, and the last because although the subject, computational biology, seems like it might be interesting, I don’t know enough about it to make sense of the material. So I’m probably going to drop one of them… most likely the last one because it meets at 9:30am.
I’m thinking of taking a couple of de-cal courses too. De-cals are classes organized and taught by students, so they cover a dizzying array of subjects, most of them interesting. I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Anyway, I’m probably going to take two of DJing 101, Conundrums and Paradoxes (we just work on puzzles during each meeting), and Hitchhike the Galaxy (read and analyze the books by Douglas Adams; although I’ve probably read them more times that the course instructors have, it still seems like a fun time).
I’m also TAing again, this time for CS172, the 121 equivalent. I realized that I like teaching a lot, and that I care what my students think of me. I’ve resolved to try harder this semester than I did last time — for the last month or so of last semester I didn’t use any notes at all — and to improve my student evaluation score. My goal is to get a 4.7/5.0 overall rating, and actually feel like I’ve had a positive impact on my kids.
(Btw, I find myself calling my students “kids”, even though they’re probably a year or two younger than me. Weird, but it feels natural.)
So this is important. The fact that I care even though it has absolutely no impact on my graduate career — I still get paid the same, and student evaluations have absolutely no effect on the road to a Ph.D. — has made me think more about teaching as a profession. I still doubt that I have the skills, motivation and intelligence to be a researcher at a big-time university, but maybe teaching at a good undergraduate-centric school like Harvey Mudd would be cool. Something to think about.
I’m still searching for funding and for an advisor, and all the other usual graduate school woes. But at least I’ve been having a good time. Saw Dan Bern in concert, went to a bunch of parties, got a new table tennis bat (the Stiga Ultra, for $40 the best low-end model you can get, but nothing really compared with the $150+ bats that most of the guys with whom I play use), played cricket for the first time, went to Haight Street and Alcatraz (beautiful… too bad they built a prison on it), and watched the first series of The Office, a hilarious British fake documentary. Hung out with Wing and Jen one day; we went to Muir Woods and Stinson Beach before coming back to Berkeley for dinner. It was one of the most relaxing, happy days I’ve ever had — it’s a wonder what good friends can do for you. I remember in particular sitting with them on a high cliff overlooking the ocean as the sun set and the breeze played coolly over the rocks. Just magical.
Anyway, the album’s over and now Mother Love Bone is playing… a very different feel. I think it’s time to do work.