Friday, November 4, 2016

Autumn Update

The past month sure has been something. I can't quite complain, since every bit of stress I've been under has been something I chose, but wow is junior year a lot of work. I'm in four technical classes, which I was warned was a bad idea but which is also pretty much my only option given that I studied abroad and want to clear up my schedule for next year. A lot of different thoughts have been floating around in my head since the last time I wrote anything here. In no particular order:


Financial literacy. I had a really good conversation with the resident fellow of my last year dorm about financial literacy and how most college students, no matter their family's socioeconomic level, are more or less clueless about a lot of financial stuff that we're going to get hit with as we enter the adult world. She asked me for some topics about money and personal finance that I thought were particularly important. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it included topics such as:
  • Credit--how to build a good credit score, what a credit card really is (NOT free money), different types of credit.
  • Taxes--how to file them, ????.
  • Savings--I know I need to start saving for retirement right away because the earlier you start the longer your savings can compound.
  • Budgeting--this past summer in Hamburg I think I did a good job budgeting, by which I mean I saved enough money by eating cheap and commuting by bike that I was able to both travel a lot and take a decent amount home, but my finances are only going to get more complex here on out.

We also talked about other aspects about personal finance to address, one of which is people's pre-existing attitudes towards money, and any potential psychological blocks they have about it. These "issues" so to speak aren't necessarily correlated with SES, and may relate more to people's parents' relationships with money e.g. an expensive lifestyle funded by debt vs. money being tight but always well-managed.

We also talked about making the topic seem approachable and accessible, and how people's backgrounds could differ widely. And about what money means to people--security, status? and how money can be used in relationships as a tool of power (any relationships, but the example she brought up was domestic abuse enacted through controlling money).

When I was about 13-15, I wanted to study finance, and consequently read a lot of financial magazines--Money, Smart Money, Fortune, if I remember correctly--and asked my dad all sorts of questions about things I didn't understand from my readings. When I switched my focus to engineering I got out of that habit, which I think is unfortunate. I need to update my knowledge.

I'm not too worried about my financial future: a single cheapskate living on a civil engineer's salary will be able to make ends meet, and since I tend to be fairly controlling I *want* to learn all about how to stay on top of my money. But to be honest, I want to excel at my personal finances. I want never to have to worry about money, I want never to be in debt where the payback path isn't absolutely clear. I no longer see the point of being filthy rich, which was a goal six years ago, but I want to make enough to support myself, to support my parents when they retire, and to give charitably.


Since I'm in two classes that have lab portions, I decided it was high time to learn LaTeX. Since I use Windows (which my Linux-using friends view with horror) I downloaded the MiKTeX distribution. A collection of links here, my main reference for "what do I type to get this thing" here. The learning curve is very, very shallow and you absolutely do not need any coding knowledge whatsoever. The final product looks super sharp and professional. 10/10 would recommend.


Last Saturday I went contra dancing. Because of Halloween, the dance was a costume ball, so I dressed up as Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation (although I wrote Fire Lord Zuko on my nametag because I'd rather be a fire lord than a prince).

It's been over a year since the last time I went to contra, because when I went at the beginning of last year I was still really uncomfortable with my gender identity/expression and ended up dancing follow pretty much the whole evening, which is making my skin crawl to remember. Not to say that women--cis or trans--who prefer to dance lead are doing anything wrong re being women, but I enjoy dancing lead a thousand times more than dancing follow, and the only reason people think that that's weird is because I appear to be a girl.

So I went to the dance on Saturday intending to dance only lead. Aside from 1.5 dances (once someone asked me to dance and refused to follow and I'm not quite rude enough to have said "well I'll dance with someone who will follow then" and another time when someone led me through the first half of a waltz to show me how it was done) I accomplished my goal.

I remember the first few times I danced contra, when I thought I was cis, I enjoyed it uncomplicatedly. On Saturday, I ended up satisfied but it felt like something I had to fight for. One guy apologized to me during the snack break for assuming that I would dance follow, and that was nice; the women all seemed to take it with more equanimity than the men. I led my friend who is one foot taller than me and we confused people a lot with that.

Gender stuff has been bothering me off and on since the quarter started because 1) apparently I never updated some of my friends on the fact that she/her is wrong 2) I am not coming out in my professional life anytime soon and because of my various extracurrics I'm occupying that public face more this year than last year. There's one friend I really want to talk to about this, a trans dude who was in my dorm last year, but for some reason our schedules just don't line up this quarter. Alas.


Since I'm a junior I've been thinking more and more about my future. The rest of this year is pretty much set, although there are various things that I may be doing in the spring that I want to think about more (a project class working with the City of San Jose that sounds awesome and also very time-consuming) (if I want to graduate with honors I'd better think some more about a question that genuinely interests me that I could turn into an honors thesis). Senior year I really, really want to staff in my dorm from last year, and about half of my classes are set.

And after that? A lot of people at my university coterm, and I am giving thought to that. But I also definitely want to work for at least a year after I graduate. I want to get a masters or a Professional Engineer license and I'm not quite sure what order to do that. When do I take my GREs? I need to schedule a conversation with my advisor, clearly.

I'm also trying to get a construction internship this summer, because every single upperclassman I've talked to has said that you learn more from being in the field than anywhere else. Construction is also probably the route I'm planning to take, although I also haven't gotten to much designing yet so I'm not ruling that out entirely.

So far I've had three interviews, gotten callbacks from two (the third was yesterday so not surprised not to have heard back yet). I'm cautiously optimistic, since I think my employability took a huge jump between last year and this year. Here's hoping I avoid the crushing job anxiety of the past two years.


Writing. Lieutenant Sarcasm and I were throwing around ideas for reviving the Protagonist Club storyline, with our two main characters Serenity and Justine studying abroad in Italy at the same time and running into a whole new cast of characters. Revisiting these characters is quite fun.

A few other threads of stories are floating about, including quite a few set in Germany. Everything requires a good amount of plotting out and worldbuilding, so I've not been very active about getting new words down. But I think I'll reel out a few ideas and see which ones are promising.

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo because really? I'm having enough trouble managing my time as is. One of these years...I may try to use this as a reason to write more consistently, but no promises. This coming month surely will be just as much "something" as the one past.

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