January 30 – Feb 1, 2017: Back to School

After our semester break, it was back to school. I don’t have class on Mondays, but I had my first morning class in years. I am not a morning person. I learned that freshman year when I had Chinese at 9am. After that, I refused to take early classes. 11 was the earliest I would do. But this semester, I have no just one, not just two but three 8:30am classes. It’s like torture.

Walking to school there was no one out on the streets. It’s empty in the early morning. Usually my walk is full of colorful people smoking and drinking coffee. I know why I don’t do morning class. It’s not even about waking up early, though I don’t like waking up early. Rather it’s a waste of valuable time. I had no idea what to do after class with so much time. I physically cannot bring myself to do work during the daytime. I’m not productive until at least 8pm. So instead I just waste the whole day doing nothing. Until the evening, I mentally feel like I won’t have enough time to finish everything and I don’t like to half finish assignments. I like to knock it all out at once. That’s why I have so much trouble with long papers. For me, it is ideal to have class in the afternoon so I can work in the evening and sleep late into the morning.

As for my classes, I like trade. Professor Matthias Matthijs makes economics remotely interesting. He draws these intricate graphs very precisely in different colors with very straight parallel lines spaced to scale. It’s impossible to replicate his graphs in my notes. And sometimes he makes mistakes but it’s too late because you’ve already drawn it into your notes. And you don’t know what’s coming next so sometimes you don’t leave enough room in the right place for the next part of the graph. He is a professor from DC who went to SAIS in the early 2000s and now he’s a professor here. He never left. He was in Katherine Knowles’s class, I think. He’s very good and engaging.

Statistics on the other hand is the worst class ever. I’ve always been one for choosing classes that interest me. Not just taking easy classes. But statistics is a required class. I’ve taken much more advanced math classes but they’re making me take statistics. And I am legitimately insulted by the level of this baby math class in grad school. And people don’t get it! The first three lessons were things that should have been mastered in middle school! Like the average, mode and median. Does the class get a little more advanced? Sure. But I have no respect for applied math. What is this but glorified guessing? I’m a purist. Pure math beats applied math any day. I’ve stopped attending the class. It’s an utter waste of time. I can read the textbook and it is easier and more efficient. All the examples they use in the class are outdated and offensive, playing on stereotypes of women and African Americans. And to top it all off, they grade the class unreasonably. It is not enough to get the right answer. Leaving out little things that were not requested of you are grounds for deducting points. What is an easy class is made impossible to get an A in. I hate statistics.

One of my favorite classes is Science and Tech in International Affairs, taught by Professor Kenneth Keller. He used to be the Director of SAIS Europe and he was the President of the University of Minnesota. A chemical engineer by training, he transitioned into science and tech policy later in his illustrious career. He is a really cool professor. He has all these amazing stories from when he served on whatever committee of this and that. And he’s a Stuyvesant alum! He’s actually featured on the alumni website. The topic of the class is super interesting.

I also found out from Professor Keller that my apartment is actually owned by Director Plummer. He used to live there before he was director. That’s why his name is on the mailbox. I never made that connection. It’s a small apartment, but I guess if it was sufficient for the Director of the school, it’s good enough for me. It’s in a good location, but compared to everyone else’s apartments, ours is not the nicest.

I also sat in on the Big Data and Cybersecurity class for the first lecture, but I wasn’t too impressed. It can be cool, but I’m not sure if they’re going to teach us real useful things. They are very Italian, read long winded. The theme of the first class was basically that data exists and we can do cool things with it. But I am looking for more depth. For someone of my generation that has grown up with computers, this is innately obvious. I don’t need convincing of the power of data.

I went to a lecture about Central Asia. There was a very good, loud speaker. I was kind of hoping that I’d get invited to dinner because it was a CCSDD lecture, but I didn’t get invited this time. All the male professors went out to dinner with the speaker instead. Oh well.

I had an interview for American Express. I thought I did kind of ok. It was my first real interview this season. We did it over video. And my reception wasn’t that good. But I did alright.

And in a pleasant surprise, my financial aid fully covered my tuition this semester! I got lucky with a favorable exchange rate this month. The dollar has been strong.  Studying abroad doesn’t have to be more expensive than studying on campus. Usually, I think they say that western Europe is more expensive and some locations in Asia are more expensive, but in general, study abroad should be cheaper because you don’t pay the exorbitant fees in the US.

Lastly, before we all headed off to Vienna for the ball, Phil and Pamela held a dance class for everyone in the auditorium. They tried, they really did but we were just terrible. I was ok cause I have done waltz before. Remember, I took ballroom dance in high school? Waltz is the only one I remember. They taught us Waltz and Viennese Waltz, which is a little more intricate. It was actually a fun lesson. They were a little too ambitious though. There was no way we were going to get so many steps in so little time. These had to be weekly lessons if we were actually going to learn anything. The music was too fast and we didn’t even do the one called “Two Steps from Hell.” The most useful thing they taught us was the Emergency Waltz. That is simple steps that look like you’re actually waltzing from the top, but if anyone looked at your feet they’d see you were only moving on the first beat. It’s a useful cheat.

I don’t have any pictures so here’s one of San Petronio, the basilica in Piazza Maggiore

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