Friday, September 12, 2014

Summer in Review: 2014

during the summer, I use these silly strips of paper as my weekly "itineraries"
no, I do not know how I get anything done either
This is the concluding post to a three-part series, the first two parts of which were Summer Plans and the Summer Midpoint Update. Like the previous post on Ubermadchen Summer Progress, it comes in a few sections:

Goals -- how did I do?
Music -- every season has its soundtrack
Consumption -- external influences/inputs
&c -- other important things

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GOALS

*Identified as needing improvement during the Midpoint Update.

*Read a lot.
I didn't read as much as I should have, but I did get some interesting stuff into my brain. See consumption, below, for details.

*Deepen my knowledge and practice of programming.
August wasn't very productive on this front. Mostly, I read about different kinds of software to use with Python for scientific programming. So that I don't dig myself into a Python pigeonhole, I'm working on making a game using C++.

Relearn calculus and *physics.
Reasonably successful on these. I ended up falling into someone else's organizational scheme on both of these: for calc I took notes on the Calculus II notes provided by Prof. Paul Dawkins of Lamar University, and for physics I used these AP Physics C study guides and these videos. Some of the later magnetism stuff went over my head, honestly, but I'm much more comfortable about going in and taking the placement test.

*Improve languages.
I began to use the Duolingo app more for my German and have since progressed reasonably well. However, Duolingo's approach doesn't really make for an integrated experience, and so I find myself forgetting a lot of grammatical rules or never putting together mental models of the grammar systems in the first place. I think I'll have to combine Duolingo with a more formal learning method to explicate the patterns. Something I do like is that Duolingo gives you a button to "practice weak skills." I've been hearing a lot about spaced repetition and it does help a lot to revisit something you used to have mastered, to refresh.

Research and write a lot in Ubermadchen.
Tuesday's post covered this. In general, I am well pleased with my progress and hope that I'll have the option to make time for my writing while also doing well in my classes. Summer is a special time because I get to make creative output a priority, and I will miss that.

Refine social media presence.
I closed the case on this one at the midpoint update; will continue to post here regularly during the school year. At this point I don't know if I'll have to cut back to one post a week, but I'd like to keep it at two because I'll have so much stuff going on that a more-than-weekly built-in reflection process (writing these posts to think through an idea space or clear my mental cache) will help me keep my head.

Practice trombone.
Moot point, since I returned the school trombone I was using shortly after the midpoint update. Looking forward to the first rehearsal of the LSJUMB!

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MUSIC
  • All of Me - John Legend (OR Tiffany Alvord cover)
  • Destruction of Myself - From Ashes to New

  • Telescope - Starset (see above)
  • Light Me Up - Birdy
  • Elle me dit - Mika
  • Golly Sandra - Eisley
  • Papaoutai - Stromae
  • All for Nothing - Linkin Park ft. Page Hamilton
  • Kopf Verloren - Peter Fox
  • The Girl in Byakkoya - Paprika soundtrack
  • Painkiller - Three Days Grace
  • Becomes the Color - Emily Wells
  • In This Shirt - the Irrepressibles
  • Underwater - Evans Blue
  • Bravado - Lorde
  • Your Eyes Open - Keane
  • How Soon is Now - Love Spit Love
  • Simple Math - Manchester Orchestra
  • Let it Die - Starset (original OR the Maniac Agenda Pleasant Nightmare remix)
  • Horse and I - Bat for Lashes
  • The Temptation of Adam - Josh Ritter
Additionally, this summer I discovered the wide world of 8tracks. I haven't gone exploring on the site much but here are some mixes I've listened to and liked: Girl Meets Girl, Guten Morgen Berlin, Young Witch in Training, My Lady General, Hold On To Your Heart.

Astute observers may notice that my listening is more female-centric this summer than it has been in previous seasons. That's partly because of Ubermadchen, but they both come from a belated and growing sense that just because society tells me that girls are weak doesn't mean I have to distance myself from girl-centric things to be strong. (See: the dress.)

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CONSUMPTION

Here are all the books I read:


And here are all the books I bought:
total cost: $7
I did not read as much this summer as I ought to. But I did read some particularly fine books:
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy + The Restaurant at the End of the World
  • How to Create a Mind
  • The Art of Learning
  • Od Magic

My favorite things that I've read this summer, though, are the writings of Eliezer Yudkowsky: the as-yet unfinished Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality story and many articles/sequences on Less Wrong. I've always thought of myself as fairly rational but Yudkowsky gives me a standard to which to repair. The article Tsuyoku Naritai by itself would lodge Less Wrong securely in my personal philosophy. I'm currently working through his sequence on quantum mechanics.

I watched the movie Paprika, the full English dub of which can be found here. An interesting movie about a device that lets psychologists enter patients' dreams, and what happens when the borders of dream and reality begin to blur. Some disturbing imagery and some awesome music (see above).

If I've slacked on reading books, it's at least in part because I've gotten better at finding interesting things to read online. My biggest font is Hacker News, though I usually only pick out the most general-interest articles. These searchings have led me to add Aeon Magazine, Ars Technica's science stream, and the Gates Notes to my feed. Lots of interesting ideas.

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&C

China for two weeks at the beginning of the summer: an explosion of planning for a wide range of projects, lots of poetry (I have not written a single poem since, I regret to say), and a more powerful sense of both longing and alienation than I have felt in America.

Long walk-and-talk outings with a particular friend of mine have stoked in me a desire for deep conversations about anything and everything. (For us, chiefly about philosophy, physics, and music.) Preferably with the same person/people because once you've gotten past the surface stuff, the obvious what-did-you-do and let's-finally-meet-one-another, you can have surprisingly deep and interesting conversations. At least I felt pretty deep when I remarked "philosophy is a maze pretending to be a labyrinth." (I may write a post about the differences later.)

Given that I stand at a pretty big threshold, it should be no surprise that I've thought a lot about my identity, the "what" and "who" of this being that calls itself me. Next Tuesday's post will be a game of sorts about these things.

I've gotten more proactive about equipping myself with new tools, and I would like to recommend Evernote and Duolingo for, respectively, idea capture and language learning. Last month I downloaded the Anaconda Python distribution, and though I haven't played around with it as much as I should I can see programs such as matplotlib and numpy helping me out in the future.

I feel as though I have been out of high school for a long, long time. My mostly solitary existence this summer has only reinforced that impression, and I do love me my solitude, but it's time to return to the world and face new challenges.

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