Time to create things!

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Now that the dissertation has been submitted, my main focus is on getting a job (and securing right to work). However, this is also a good time to assess and consider what I’ve done already and what I want to do in the future. This post will focus on one thing that has been fairly constant in my life: creating.

I honestly think, if I weren’t so brainwashed by the current prestige of academia, I would prefer to be a craftsman, especially one that deals with the physical. However, given I went down the route of the “thinkers” and I know I will have a hard time leaving that behind, I must find a way to satiate my desire to create. Now creating means many things to me, but importantly value must be added to something or someone. This idea has been drilled into me, especially having attended technology-positive universities. Ideally in this world we, as people, would create things that do the most good for the world. However, I will generally settle for creating things (physical and non-physical) that help a community, that bring joy to an individual, that make me happy.

So I want to make some goals for the near future to create things, because I feel that I have not been producing many things. Now, I am conscious that there is the inherent possibility that I will simply add to the clutter of things available for consumption, but I figure that at least I will gain new skills in the process (which will be good for my job searching) and I can choose projects that will have value added for me. The primary difficulty now is deciding what to create! My current list of things to produce in the near future includes the following (some will be more conscious than others):

  • More writing
    • Within this blog — I know I’ve said this before, but what can I say some goals just need to be revived
      • Better understand London culture, and maybe if I’m ambitious wider UK idiosyncrasies (I do not feel like I know Londoners very well given, I’ve spent over a year in the city), and provide an American millennial perspective on London
      • Write about EdTech, never dying goal
      • Document as I take on my tech learning goals (see below)
    • Physically develop a personal stylized script — the aim would be to learn the basics of calligraphy, but I will probably settle on this goal for good penmanship using pens and markers
  • Build a couple of apps using app builders
    • Working on a AR quest using Metaverse right now
    • Maybe I’ll actually try to build out “noteworking” my idea for a note-taking app developed for networking events and continuing professional development
  • Learn the basics of Unity3D and maybe Unreal — so that I can honestly say “I’m not scared” of them in job interviews
  • Sew electronics — make something from the book, since I have all the materials anyway
  • Develop a social media presence
    • Even just being more conscious of sharing things
    • Particularly to develop a bit of an aesthetic eye for cell phone photography — Instagram here I come!
  • Photo post-processing
    • Yes, I’m editing my own wedding photos… I think I’ve gotten the basics of blemish removal and playing with hue saturation, but I still need to learn how to sharpen smartly and understand different filters.
  • Laser cut one of my wedding photos into a piece of wood while I still have access to a laser printer (at least I hope I still have access to the laser printer at the UCL Institute of Making)
  • Yarn crafts
    • Finally finish the knit boot toppers I started earlier this year
    • Continue making octopus soothers for Octopus for a Premie
  • Make-up basics — I think I know how to do the basics, but I just need to work on the execution (perhaps upgrade some of my tools, e.g. I’ve slowly realized the difference that quality brushes can make) and the confidence to strut outside with the make-up on, so I can discover my mistakes and improve.
    • Learn how to color correct
    • Better understand my skin — I think I’ve found some suitable foundations and skin care items, but the seasons are changing, so…
    • Learn how to do a slick chignon
  • Develop new friendships — one of the most wishy washy things on this list but also one of the most important
  • Cook more food, especially Chinese food
  • Redevelop physical strength and endurance — probably not traditionally on a list of creating, but I do feel like it is kind of like sculpting?
    • Arms — I want to get back to at least 5 chin-ups, just enough to be cool and definitely achievable, since I definitely could do 10 on the regular in high school
    • Abdomen — minimize pooch; don’t need distinguishable abs though
    • Flexibility — actually get beyond beginners yoga?
    • Endurance — probably pick up something cardio related, personal preference for non-boutique spinning/cycling
    • Coordination — dancing here I come?

Just so I’m not just making a list of things I haven’t done, I wanted to include a small list of things I’ve recently created:

  • Make-up
    • I think I have a better understanding of eyebrows. This still needs work, but we all have to start somewhere!
    • I can put on false lashes — seems silly, but I think this is an accomplishment, albeit small.
    • I am pretty decent at doing a French twist now.
    • I now know how to produce a clean French tip manicure/pedicure! It’s all in the clean-up brush! Also, the clean edges of a manicure are so easy to produce with a clean-up brush, so now I can do salon clean edges!
  • Photo post-processing
    • I am pretty confident removing blemishes, whitening teeth, and cleaning up stray hairs in GIMP. I think I also understand dodge and burn basics, which is really helpful given the difference in skin tone between Daniel and me — I feel like the difference in our skin makes the camera unhappy.
  • Understanding of VR
    • I think I have a decent understanding of the state of consumer VR, but this is definitely something to be developed further.
  • Wrote my dissertation! I just have to put this on here, since it’s been the major project of the last few months.

I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting on both lists, but that’s okay. This is just a snapshot of what I’m thinking now. Hopefully, I’ll be reporting back with updates soon!

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Distracted

The events of these past few days (Charlottesville and Trump’s subsequent statements especially) are not the sort of distraction that one wants. It makes my throat tighten, my stomach ache, and my eyes tear. It really has made me question priorities, like

  • Why I’m writing about virtual reality, when we can’t get our current reality right?
    • However, this dissertation has immediate impact on my life, and it’s so hard to predict the urgency of different timelines.
  • What descriptors one chooses to identify by in these times:
    • Interestingly, there have been multiple debates about diversity in recent days hitting the many spectrums of ways people differentiate themselves, in particular: Google/gender and Charlottesville/race and religion (Judaism). Though I suppose that every spectrum of difference has been highlighted and discussed in the last year in order to define you versus us.
      • I currently think the ethnicity, race, religion issues are more urgent than the gender issues. Within the ethnicity, race, religion issues some issues are more urgent than others, and that’s something that I think people have to realize. Specifically anti-black racism and Islamophobia need to be battled now, things like Asian-American recognition and equality can take a back seat. This isn’t a statement about which issues are more important, just more urgent, and I think urgency is important in establishing priorities. But then again, all these issues also overlap, so…

I don’t have much that is insightful to say, but I just wanted to note that this time in history is a bleak one and I can only hope that there is resolution that celebrates diversity and that we get there with as little violence as possible, though I have a sick feeling that will be difficult.

Relevant Articles

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/11/17/if-you-voted-for-him/

The last month of my taught MA in the UK

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Never have I felt so close to failure as I do now. I really wish I had taken the last year to learn what I wanted to on my own. The master’s program I’ve been enrolled in has offered me some interesting opportunities for sure, but in this moment of reflection, I feel like I could have learned more on my own or though discussion with other learners. I wish there was more discussion and hands-on learning. Honestly, I would not recommend a one-year taught master’s program in the UK to a student coming from the US, because it’s just not enough time to establish the social connections that are given so much weight in American culture and the supports are much weaker than in the US university system. Oh well, too late for me. All I can do now is try to make sure I hammer out my last class assignment (a 5,000 word portfolio) and my dissertation. Progress is not going well. I definitely could have planned better, but there were also some things out of my hands. I honestly had never thought that reading and writing would be so difficult. Maybe I’ve just gotten lazy. Here’s to the last ditch effort!

Word count tracker (Purely word count, not quality):

Portfolio & Dissertation

Jul31 1,832/5,000 & 1,128/20,000

Aug1 1,832/5,000 & 1,631/20,000

Aug2 1,832/5,000 & 3,378/20,000

Aug3 1,832/5,000 & 3,540/20,000

Aug4 1,832/5,000 & 3,543/20,000

Aug5 1,832/5,000 & 3,543/20,000

Aug6 1,832/5,000 & 3,543/20,000

Aug7 1,832/5,000 & 3,543/20,000

I need to write at least 1,000 words a day consecutively for as long as I can. The end of the month I’ll be pre-occupied by weddings and travel. This is basically my only hope of having assignments that pass. Gahh!!! Here we go!

New goal at least 2,000 words a day consecutively for as long as I can! With the goal of getting the (maybe Methodology,) Data Analysis and Discussion sections to my advisor by Friday.

Aug8 1,832/5,000 & 4,010/20,000

Aug9 1,832/5,000 & 6,825/20,000

Aug10 1,832/5,000 & 10,354/20,000

Aug11 1,832/5,000 & ~11,000/20,000 (I forgot to check, since I primarily worked on processing quantitative data this day)

Aug12 1,832/5,000 & 12,029/20,000

Aug13 1,832/5,000 & 12,728/20,000

Aug14 1,832/5,000 & 25,648/20,000 (Qualitative Data is way over at 18,085)

Aug15 1,832/5,000 & 20,368/20,000 (Cutting Day, Qualitative Data is still way over at 11,628; back to writing tomorrow)

Aug16 1,984/5,000 & 20,368/20,000 (Switched to a reading day, because literature review and TEBC assignment need to be organized. Hopeful that organizing today will help make writing easier tomorrow. I’m also thoroughly distracted by US current news.)

Aug17 1,984/5,000 & 21,738/20,000

Aug18 1,984/5,000 & 22,339/20,000 (I lost a day somewhere, not sure which date this should be.)

Aug20 1,984/5,000 & 23,308/20,000

Aug21 I forgot to check word count…

Aug22 1,984/5,000 & 27,???/20,000

Lost track… I had more data that didn’t save, but it’s done!

Today I feel…

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sad and defeated.

There isn’t anything in particular I that has happened to me. This is a mixture of personal frustrations as a postgraduate student, sadness about the state of humanity and the world, and the seeming impossibility of dreams for the future.

Being a student again has shown me personal strengths and weaknesses. I am confident I have depth of thought, but I am less articulate than ever. I love learning but not all things. There are many things that I realize I don’t want to do, but the challenge is in determining when the task is just difficult or I’m being lazy and when my lack of desire points to a misstep in my prior choices or a challenge to my current trajectory. Being in a postgraduate program makes me long for vocational training in a craft–if only the lifestyle of a craftsman were guaranteed to be stable and respected, because unfortunately I am prideful. Having time to explore has shown me how much there is to explore–either to extend the knowledge of humanity or to learn for self-enrichment. I would love to be able to learn and explore forever, however, without specific directives or the concern of maintaining the socioeconomic status that affords me this privilege in the first place.

Reading the daily news and popular media makes me wonder if society has always been so fragmented. The terrors some people must live through make me grateful for the stability in my life, and the safety net that I have in my family and friends. However, I wonder what social responsibility means in our world today. With the ability to travel globally and the the rippling effects of consumerism, the individual has potentially more impact on the world than ever before. We are both more informed and less informed than ever. We have more access but less accountability. What people choose to care about seems to be haphazardly decided and their actions (or lack thereof) are equally misinformed. I do not exclude myself from these mistakes. I think we are all guilty and that makes me sad and regretful.

There are so many potential futures. Ordinarily, I’d say I straddle the realms of optimistic dreamer and pragmatic scientist, but recently I’ve become more uncertain about how much faith I can put into other people and myself to bring about the best possible future. I can only hope that these feelings will pass without loosing them as valuable reflections that drive compassionate actions in the future.

Creative Research Case

https://medium.com/ucl-antenna/navigating-dementia-65a233d43bb8#.o0kc6lrw2

I find the Sea Quest Hero application to be really interesting. Not so much the literal “app” but rather the use of the “app” to collect data. I know similar methods have been utilized before, but the use of a mobile application to collect information that would be relevant to dementia research… well that’s pretty cool. It’s a reminder that we have the capabilities to collect new sorts of data and more of it than ever before. I know “games” have often been controversial in their relevance and effectiveness, but I firmly believe that we have to think creatively with the tools that we have now to do valuable research.

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

Data-driven Parenting

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/12/16/505852661/advice-from-parents-on-screen-time-and-the-digital-world

It’s interesting that so many of the parents in this conversation are so interested in empirical studies to help them in parenting. There is both so much information online, but so few empirical studies since there are so many ethical issues and complications with studies of children. I suppose this is all just a sign of the the battles of epistemologies that are not often addressed head-on, especially in American society. (Oh, how reading about and trying to understand different epistemologies has plagued me in my postgraduate studies.)

Some things that are missing

I expected some things to be different in London, England than in Chicago or Boston, USA, but here are a few things that I have found to be unexpectedly missing…

  1. Apple sauce. Upon further thought this kind of makes sense.
  2. 25p coin. Instead there is a 20p coin (not to mention the 2p, £1 (which also means the £1 note doesn’t exist), and £2 coins…and the fact that people actually use 50p coins here). I wonder if this reflects a difference in thinking about numbers.
  3. The gaps around the door around a toilet stall. I rather like this.
  4. Walk signals. Not completely absent, but it feels like there are a lot fewer here.
  5. Target/Walmart equivalent (at least in the city…)

I’ll update this list with more in the future. I think it’s rather interesting. I’ll probably do a list of things that are “additional” as well.

(Some updates 09/12/17)

U.S. Presidential Election Results 2016

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I don’t even know where to begin. I didn’t on November 8th and I still don’t really know on November 28th. However, I just wanted to compile of few articles that I think add to the discussion, each with slightly different stances–some that I agree with and some that I don’t. I recognize that many of these opinions are fairly liberal, but I want to have them in a personal archive to reflect some of the surprise and emotion that struck me in the days after the 2016 election.

Some of my thoughts:

  1. “Oh my…” I knew it was possible, but still there is a bit of me that stunned.
  2. I hope everyone uses this opportunity to understand the “marginalized,” and I mean all who feel marginalized. This has to happen on many fronts all at once. There are perspectives to be validated and challenged.
    1. Along this line, I do think that many of my peers need to think about their own personal privileges and how they can help construct a positive future. This will mean different things for different people, but I do think now is as good a time as any to DO GOOD.
  3. I need to reflect on what I think is right and where my thoughts come from. I hope that I can discuss with others in ways that are thought provoking, but not violent. However, I am open to emotional challenges, which I think can be good in light of this election and Brexit, which some have pointed to as post-fact emotion dominated events.
    1. I think discussion will help me to articulate my thoughts and for others to as well. I know that I have been struggling to articulate the many facets of my thoughts.
    2. I hope people can discuss and argue in ways that allow for authenticity without compromising respect or friendship. I think a person is stronger for having friends who are not their exact clones, and a lot of us just have to “get over ourselves.”

Article Archive:

“An American Tragedy”

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-american-tragedy-donald-trump?intcid=mod-latest

“What do we tell the children?”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-should-we-tell-the-children_us_5822aa90e4b0334571e0a30b

“What so many people don’t get about the US working class”

https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-so-many-people-dont-get-about-the-u-s-working-class?utm_campaign=HBR&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

“I’m a costal elite from the midwest the real bubble is rural America”

http://www.rollcall.com/news/opinion/im-a-coastal-elite-from-the-midwest-the-real-bubble-is-rural-america

“This is no time for unity — Trump must be confronted with relentless protest”

http://usuncut.com/politics/no-hillary-clinton-trump-doesnt-deserve-chance/

“White Christians who voted for Trump: Fix. This. Now.”

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/11/10/white-christians-who-voted-for-donald-trump-fix-this-now/

“Aftermath: Sixteen Writers on Trump”

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/21/aftermath-sixteen-writers-on-trumps-america#diaz

“Now is the Time to Talk about What We Are Actually Talking About”

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/now-is-the-time-to-talk-about-what-we-are-actually-talking-about

“Smug American Liberalism” (from April 2016!)

http://www.vox.com/2016/4/21/11451378/smug-american-liberalism

“Why Donald Trump’s Victory Terrifies Some of Your Ethnic Minority Friends”

http://www.norvillerogers.com/why-donald-trumps-victory-terrifies-some-of-your-ethnic-minority-friends/

Welcome Week

Welcome Week, a.k.a. “Freshers Week”, is the orientation week at UCL. We call it Welcome Week because UCL has many postgraduates starting master’s and doctorate programmes. There are lots of events to help people meet each other and get oriented to the university.

Some notable differences between my experience as a master’s student at UCL’s Welcome Week and my experience as an undergraduate student at MIT’s Orientation Week

  • As an international student, I did attend a couple of events during the international orientation (I only came for the last couple of days, because the first half didn’t seem as useful or entertaining, especially as an American student who also wanted to maximize time at home). There was a day of talks, which was rather long… but overall helpful.
    • There are a lot of awesome international students at UCL, which I really love! I know there were a lot of international students at MIT, but I’m really noticing all the international students here at UCL, probably because I am one. Also, I have definitely found it easier to meet and speak with international students–among the many reasons, British English accents are surprisingly difficult for me to understand.
  • Of course as a master’s student I have this conception that I would have been out of place at some of the party events and such, so I didn’t go to as many of the club nights. I did go to one of the club night at KOKO and thought the venue was great. I do find it fascinating that most undergraduate freshers can go to clubs here in England since they are 18 and may drink, something that is not legal in the States. However, I would say the MIT dorms put on enough events that I never was bored and the parties at frats during rush week were entertaining enough.
  • Apparently unis do inductions here to introduce everyone to how to select modules, whereas I had an individual meeting with an academic advisor to choose classes. I also have been feeling underwhelmed by information. Things were just a lot more obvious when selecting classes for my undergrad.
  • Pub quizzes are great, but I suspect that this is actually an event I would have attended in the US if I were back in school State-side.
  • UCL seems to take advantage of other venues in the city, whereas MIT’s orientation was largely contained to the campus, except for a few events.
  • Because students live all over London, I don’t know how well students get to know each other at UCL, but I do sort of miss the days of living on “dorm row” at MIT. Proximity definitely makes meeting people and getting closer to each other much easier.
  • Welcome Fair at UCL versus Activities Fair at MIT: very similar in that there are tons of “societies”/”clubs.” However, I will say because of the venue restrictions getting around the UCL’s Welcome Fair was a pain that actually took me ~6 hours over two days to get through, whereas MIT’s Activities Fair had just as many clubs to take-in (I think actually more…) but was just a lot more pleasant (less crowded and less rushed though less time consuming). I’m looking forward to all the spam I’m going to get and will update if the quantity (and perhaps quality) of emails is a similarity or a difference.
    • I will say that I’m still good at getting freebies but am proud to say I am more selective!

Fun pics from this last week and a half: UCL Wilkins Building portico, Pearly Kings and Queens of London, Being touristy on a double decker bus tour

Cost of moving to London (Part 1)

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This is a look at my monetary cost of moving to London, UK from the USA to become a student at UCL for the next year. This should cover all major costs so far, but the cost of my everyday consumables during the application portion is not included, e.g. internet, printing, or gasoline costs.

Before setting foot in London:

  • Tier Visa Application Fee: $446
  • NHS Immigrant Health Surcharge: $306
  • Shipping the visa application and shipping label for return: $22.95 + $34
  • MA Education and Technology programme tuition as overseas student : £15,525
  • Welcome week ticketed events: £50
  • Round Trip Flight to London and back to Chicago (found a good deal earlier in the year): $589.26

Total so far: $1,398.21 + £15,575 (exchange rate is generally around 1.33)

I’m going to be looking for some ways to offset these costs.