november, 2002

Fri Nov 1 23:22:32 EST 2002

This is almost for the record, a state of the Nori before potential lunacy sets in. I feel like within the past week I've successfully postponed a couple crises: the music one until dinner with Tony in a week and a half; the question of next year until Martin comes tomorrow. Right now, writing heap-sorting algorithms in Java on a Friday night, listening to the chamber music rep test on random and humming raptly along to Schönberg's Verklärte Nacht, I'm quite content with my state. Not only do I have new shoes, and new striped socks (I'm afraid there was another sock attack yesterday morning), but I build a Lego bug today, and I went to orchestra last night.

Daniel all but guilt-tripped me into playing the concert, so I had told him I'd pick up a part and come to rehearsal this week. Now, I've played all of about five minutes since early this August, and was not at all confident about my ability to hold the instrument straight, let alone buoy up a sagging viola (let alone string!) section. That afternoon, Mark commented, "It's like riding a bike ... you fall off the first few times." Which didn't help. But apparently years of practice have indeed paid off, and the muscle memories were all still hardwired into my brain, the neural pathways a little dusty but still blazed into synapses. And it felt so good to play. I left halfway through, after the Moldau-esque noodlings on the C string got to my wrist, but I consider two hours of damn good sight-reading of Sibelius an accomplishment nonetheless.

With what appears to be the reintroduction of music back into my life, my bipedalness not perfect but at least bootless and newly shod, and everything else going well (Team Asskicker won third place in the konane tournament in AI yesterday; I'm relearning C and feeling very solid algorithmically in Java, even if the language can kiss my ass), I'm feeling very solidly like myself again. The state of the Nori may vary radically in the next few days ... and the environment being what it is (dynamic, nondeterministic; nonepisodic; continuous; and inaccessible) I'm not sure that, even given a good particle filter and sensor data, that we could predict the exact position at even time T+1 ... but as of right now, let it be said that I am comfortable in my own (new!) shoes.

Mon Nov 11 10:52:42 EST 2002

Across the street from Praise The Lord Dental, where Ben, Alex, Anna and I crashed four years ago chez Ruth after a Balanchine ballet, Chris is making us pancakes, Greg is flipping out about Augustine, and Martin is dabbling in pita seasonings. The cat keeps her distance finally, having realized that I am in fact violently allergic to her. I woke up a few times to the superway rattling by outside, but slept sneeze-free through the night, following a Ruby Foo's round of gluttony (I wore my Regenbogentruthahnpulli, and felt underdressed for about five seconds). By then, the food-induced haze of Java Joe's had almost worn off, as had the almost-impromptu trance and dancing of the previous night. I've been just chilling this past week, even getting homework done -- hearing Larry Wall talk at LISA, and writing Perl scripts to do my CS35 homework for me; not going to any classes and being a geek with a badge. The end of the vacation is this weekend, whereafter I get back to classes, albeit slowly, as I've still got a houseguest.

Tue Nov 12 22:22:21 EST 2002

New York has everything. That is both its allure, and the reason I can never live there. Anything you want, and everyone you might want to meet, is a block away, or at most a half hour's subway ride. I love it, but it's overwhelming. I'm more used to the endless cityness of it, the pavement smell and the traffic noise, than I was a few years ago, so I can see it more for what it is under the cement and smoke -- but still, I might go crazy there.

That said, this weekend's visit there was there was the best I've had. Usually, I'm there on an agenda -- audition for schools; hear a concert; see an art show -- but this time, the agenda was me and marTin chilling chez Chris and Greg. Chris used his city museum worker's pass to get the three of us into the Guggenheim gratis; we spent the afternoon drinking coffee, rolling cigarettes, and eating chocolate at a Brasserie near Chris's apartment. I momentarily decided on a major (CS & ling -- we'll see how long that lasts). Ich habe ein paar große Knutschflecke. Things on all fronts are wonderful, for the rational, in-the-moment 99.5% of the time I can limit the scope of my thoughts to the present (and even some of the other times). But usually, I can, and I'm speaking half with eyes (they say so much! I'd almost forgotten), and half in German, learning Zungenbrecher, corrections abounding but less frequent (ich gebe mein Bestes). It's so good, makes me so happy. I've changed, and so has he, in the past two years ... and in many ways, it is now the best we've ever had it. But these two weeks need to exist in and of themselves, and nothing more, for me to fully enjoy them and him ...

So while I'm attending geek conferences, and trolling hand-in-hand around New York, now getting back to Swarthmore [warning: this was written during Econ] -- and my classes, and the freshmen in my classes! -- is quite the culture shock. I've begun to feel like I'm aging out of here in a small way since the semester started, but now it's quite apparent that I'm 22, an the upper age bound for a student body of 1400 late teenagers. I need to decide on a major before I question its worth (maybe not majoring in music is therefore a good idea!). I need, as Martin said when we were thinking aloud about next year, to finish my academics first. It's true, I do. It will take effort to finish this out -- I still enjoy it all (and this is not the best time of any semester to evaluate academic passion!), and I am eager to fulfill the requirements for a Swat B.A., but I feel old compared to these cellphone-toting highschoolers, and my eyes are -- at least these two weeks -- focused beyond June 1, 2003.

Sat Nov 16 19:51:15 EST 2002

Dropped Martin off at the airport just a few hours ago, rain and night falling as the ramp into the terminals came to a standstill, or a Stillstand. We parked on the shoulder behind a barrier, and hiked the remaining quarter mile into the Lufthansa gate. I tried not to cry (failed), and we got moved to the side and told not to kiss in the middle of the path. So now, boyless, I'm back in my room in Palmer, which is cleaner than it's been in two weeks. I tell myself I'm glad that I'll have the whole bed to myself, be able to sleep better, and to get more work done in these last three and a half weeks of the semester. It's all true, I'm glad to have the extra personal space. But that doesn't stop me from sitting here and crying now that he's gone for a quasi-indefinite period of time. Hopefully, I can somehow swing a week im Jänner (Januar), and spring break. Hopefully he can swing senior week and graduation. Hopefully after that we'll go sailing in France, and then kann ich mich endlich nach Zürich umziehen. I have no reason to cry, he points out; I'll see him as soon as it's possible, and this two-week visit was the best it possibly could have been in all respects ...

... but, verdammt, I miss him already.

Wed Nov 20 19:38:32 EST 2002

I think I'm crazy. My faculty adviser has known this all along, and has watched me be crazy for the past three and a half years. He watched me come in, drunk on reading the catalog and wanting to triple major; he watched me declare in Music and Ling, and then last semester as I dropped the ling for a CS minor. So I don't imagine it came as much of a surprise to him when I sent him an email the other day pretty much informing him that I would be double majoring in CS and Linguistics (and minoring in music if the registrar lets me).

It's not that it's such an asinine idea. I'd be taking four courses: Structure of Akan (for the non-IE ling requirement); Theory of Comp; Computer Architecture (with a special dispensation from Bruce to work around my scheduling conflict with the labs); and the CS senior conference. The crazy part is that I'd be using a lot of the material in this conference -- which just so happens to be on natural language processing -- to write a Linguistics thesis with. Which is another class, and much more work. And on which I have to start now.

It's crazy but doable. And I really want to, because the thing I've regretted the most along the way is that I wasn't getting to write a thesis. Course-majoring (i.e., not honors) I'm perfectly fine with, but I don't want to just have dabbled in a bunch of disciplines. I'd like to take something I've learned in a few of them and apply them, work on writing something of merit, to show I've learned something. (Remind me of this in March.)

So, I want to do it, and I've just received approval and special dispensations from all parties involved. I think it will make me crazy, but I think it's a necessary madness -- one that I need to do to believe I've done something worthwhile here at Swat.

Meantime, I'm trying to get back in the groove of this college thing, start focusing on my immediate work a little bit more, counting down the days until I graduate a little bit less -- while at the same time, fiercely clawing my way into Zurich next year. I think I have it in me to bullshit my way through these competency exams at this point. I can pass them, I just need to find some place to let me take them. Should I just wait and do them at ZHW in July? And how do I find an apartment? And what about a job, or music?

Keeping it all wrapped up in my head, and all in perspective, is exhausting.

Mon Nov 25 23:46:48 EST 2002

Thanksgiving approaching, and none too soon. Not that I need a break per se, I'm just feeling the winding down of these four years of liberal arts education quite acutely. I spent all Saturday writing and polishing a résumé, which felt good to accomplish, and makes my Swat career look very organized and teleological (when it in fact has been rather angsty and haphazard), but which also took a lot out of me mentally. I'm backing myself up for next year, the what-if in these Zurich plans, and to see what's out there for a double Linguistics and Computer Science major. Might be something cool, even. And either way, a Plan B is necessary in this whole scheme.

So even though I should be feeling very put together -- I talked with Rich this afternoon about potential thesis topics, and I'm starting to lean towards some aspect of machine translation -- I'm in fact rather frustrated with the small bits. Was irrationally devastated yesterday after taking a five-hour (!) CS35 exam and then not being let into Sharples, as I'd gotten there five minutes after they closed. Went home in pieces, and ended up finding Chinese food in my fridge, Gabe's home-roasted coffee and a quarter of an Assorted Gourmet Brownie chez Claire, pool (Gabe and I each lost one), and Sachertorte and more coffee at Paces -- drowned my frustration in chocolate and coffee, which was really necessary at that point.

But it's this kind of thing that has been making me crazy. I am happy that I have a thesis to focus on, on which to do exciting research and writing, or else this last semester would feel like just too much. Too much red tape, too long before I graduate, too many obstacles between here and there. I like what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis -- my foot appears to be totally knit, and I can run again, which feels wonderful -- but it's been since, oh, about the exact time Martin left that I've been not quite happy with Swarthmore anymore. Puts these last five or six months under a different lens, and I'm sad to be away from him, with so much collegiate bullshit to wade through before I'm finished.

I'm going to make sweet potato cheesecake for Thanksgiving, write a thesis topic proposal, and enjoy the time off campus. Hopefully the brief respite should re-cast some of my angst into something useful. Worst case, oh well -- there are only three weeks left in the semester.

Sat Nov 30 14:11:40 EST 2002

My mother's ingenuity and my tenacity again have solved the problem -- seeing me fight with a QWERTY keyboard on Dinosaur (the ancient computer soon to receive Linux here!), she suggested I look online for the Windoze keyboard layout file from the CD we couldn't find. I didn't find it (well, I found a Dutch one with a ä instead of the q, which didn't help much), but I found a neat little app to let you generate your own. Which I did (for those of you stuck at home on Windoze boxes without Dvorak, it's here).

This break has been needed, and just about perfect lengths of time and family and food and wine. Thursday I

all this ©nori heikkinen, November 2002

<-- October || today || December -->

back to front