Graduate School – A Review

June 16, 2009

I went to college for seven years. Yes, seven years. Five years as an undergraduate and two as a graduate. Those years in graduate school were hard – while my friends were going out nightly and enjoying their new wealth, I spent the better part of my life in the library or grading papers as a TA to barely earn enough to cover tuition and living expenses. After I was finally done, degree in hand, I had thought that completion would mean that the symbolic load would be lifted off my back. Sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes I wonder how I even got past it.

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy graduate school. But it was more of an act of perseverance than a pleasurable activity. But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe I should enjoy studying 12+ hours in the library, deciphering Greek symbols and formulas constructed tens, and sometimes hundreds of years ago. The weekends and late nights spent hunkered over a homework problem, staring blankly at code, or sitting around a table of peers discussing a project.

Going to graduate school in engineering is like that. It teaches you a new way to think – that the formula that was served so elegantly to you as an undergraduate isn’t enough. And there will be many more questions raised than answers. And most of these answers will be expected from you, not given to you by the professor. In fact, it teaches you that what is given to you as fact is not enough – that you should try to understand the underlying details to truly understand.

Let’s not ignore the benefits…exposure to new topics, being around like-minded people, and challenging ideas. The potential for a higher income later in life. And most of all, pushing oneself.

But everyone I’ve talked to in graduate school has asked these questions many, many times: Why am I doing this? Why am I here? So my warning to you considering graduate school is this: be prepared to ask yourself these questions many times as well.

-Vince

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Closing State Deficit… At the Expense of a Rich Future

June 3, 2009

It has recently been reported that Shwarzenegger’s response to CA’s $24 billion deficit is a proposed closure of 80% or 220 of the 279 California state parks and taking even more away from invaluable state programs.  So now not only will it be more difficult to raise our children to embrace California’s natural beauty, getting quality education will be even further out of reach.

When I look back on my childhood, the some of the fondest memories I have are camping with my family at Big Sur, going to Sunset Beach in Santa Cruz with my friends in high school when we finally had drivers licenses, thinking about one day going to Half Moon bay, hiking and really soaking in California’s natural beauty.  This appreciation for California beaches and state parks has stayed with me and now when I think of my more recent fond memories, I think about running through Torrey Pines State Beach, Torrey Pines State National Reserve to train for and during the La Jolla Half Marathon.  I think about Silver Strand state beach and how I’m looking forward to possibly running another race along that beach in a couple months.  I think about the first time I went fishing at Lake Cuyamaca, next to Cuyamaca State Park.  I think about Carlsbad State Beach and the brief stop I made there a year ago, leaving with a mental note to go back.  What are some of your similar memories?  I know you must have some.

Picture I took at Torrey Pines... it's even more stunning in person

Picture I took at Torrey Pines... it's even more stunning in person

What all these have in common is that they are all part of the list of state park closures proposed if Shwarzenegger’s plan is put into action.  We often take these beautiful sights for granted, when in reality the work that goes into keeping these landmarks open is apparently deemed excessive by our governor.  It devastates me that there is a chance that not only will my quality of life be affected, but that one day my kids and the generation that comes after me may never have a chance to experience such an enriched life.  I think that losing our state parks is one of those things that we won’t fully realize how it’s affecting us until it’s gone.  I know that the state deficit is not a trivial issue, but neither is slowly taking away things that make California great.  There has got to be another way, and I hope that together we can save California.

Sunset I captured at Cuyamaca

Sunset I captured at Cuyamaca

Check out the list of parks: “Proposed state park closure list is not for the faint of heart

-debs


Further Enrich Your Life Through Podcasts

April 17, 2009

It is pretty common these days for people to try and broaden their knowledge in different topics through Googling, looking at Youtube how-to videos, Wikipedia, blogs, etc.  But another resource I’ve tapped into is subscribing to podcasts.  It is amazing how many people regularly podcast content for free for your listening pleasure.  And there are a lot of really good ones that are guaranteed to enlighten you in any topic you may be interested in.  Here are a few thoughts on how to get started and how to make subscribing to podcasts useful for you.

First, some of you may still be asking, what’s a podcast? According to wikipedia, a Podcast is “series of digital media files, usually digital audio or video, that is made available for download via Web syndication.”  Someone who runs a podcast will typically record and broadcast an episode regularly, and thanks to many free programs out there these days, these episodes can be made available to us as soon as they are broadcasted.  It is common for people to download these podcasts, load them into a media player (such as an iPod) so they can conveniently listen to these podcasts anywhere.

There are many ways that people manage and discover podcasts.  There are different “podcast catchers” out there, as well as websites with lists of different podcasts to subscribe to.  Usually these podcasts are in the form of an “.xml” feed.. it works similarly to an RSS feed.  The address for that feed is what you want to enter when asked what feed you would like to subscribe to.  When a new episode is available, the podcast catcher will see it in the Podcast feed and download it.  I personally manage my podcasts through iTunes because I find it very easy to search for podcasts in the iTunes store, subscribe to them right away inside iTunes, and then listen to them.  Another customizable setting that is worth noting is the “auto delete” setting.  By default, a podcast program will usually auto-delete podcasts after a certain number of days, or after they are played.  I like to have control over which podcasts I keep and which podcasts I delete, so I usually select whatever option it is that never deletes podcasts episodes.

Whatever you’re interested in, there is probably a podcast for you to subscribe to.  For me, I’ve listened to and watched podcasts about topics ranging from personal finance, the stock market, the economy… to food, fitness, health… to discussions about the environment and living an eco-friendly lifestyle, to free music lesson series, free “personal trainer,” workout music… I even subscribe to my favorite morning show so I don’t miss out on the fun topics they discuss at 6am when I’m still sleeping.  The possibilities are endless.  Just search for a topic you’re interested in and start subscribing!

-debs.