Friday, April 8, 2011

Great Conversations

Yesterday was characterized by a series of wonderful conversations.

The day started, more or less, with lunch with Rachel at Casa Italiana. Rachel happens to be my main inspiration and example for starting this blog, as she kept an impressive blog while she was in Oxford fall quarter. She shared a lot of her experiences in Oxford, and I told her about some of my grand plans for the quarter. We talked about how and why she kept a blog and what role it might play for me next quarter. She said, and I can see how this is true for me now, that keeping a blog not only helped her record memories, it also changed how she looked at the world as she was experiencing it. Similarly, I find myself thinking about how I will write about the things I experience every day even as they are happening. I also look around for interesting things to write in this blog, so I make sure to find interesting things every day. It was also interesting to hear what coming back to Stanford has been like for her. Her time at Oxford clearly meant a lot to her, and I hope that mine will mean as much to me.

After leaving Casa, I went across the street to Hillel, where I found Joe working in the computer cluster. I talked to him for a bit and then we ended up going to fix his flat tire at the bike shop. Joe's original plan was to blow up the inner tube and then find the, supposedly small, hole by placing the tube in a bucket of water and looking for the bubbles. As I was filling up the tire with air, though, the tube completely exploded around 30 psi and, with it, any hope of patching the tire. (It turned out that the tube would have probably needed replacing anyway.) Joe then had to buy a new inner tube and, with the repair guy's strong recommendation, the tire as well. With some good teamwork, we had the new tire on and inflated in no time. Then we walked back to Columbae.

All the while, we talked. Talking with Joe inspired yesterday's post and several other thoughts.

Next, I went to the Entrepreneurial Thought Leader's Seminar. This week's speaker was from Conservation International, and she talked about how CI, a non-profit, shows businesses and governments economically beneficial ways to partner with other businesses, governments, and people to promote conservation of natural resources and biodiversity. The talk is/will be on the Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner website if you are interested. It was a pretty good talk, but so are all the other ETL talks, so check them out on the website.

Half the reason I went was that I promised Aaron Kalb that I would see him there before I left. After the presentation, we got to talking a lot. We ordered Ike's sandwiches, sat down, and kept talking until I realized I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to have dinner with someone else.

So I ran to my car and drove back over to GovCo to meet Eric Miller for the second half of my dinner. We went over to Ricker, sat down, and ended up talking for about an hour and a half straight. Among other things, we decided we would try to find an apartment off campus to share for the summer, when he will be working at Genentech.

After saying goodbye to Eric, I got a break from socializing at Yost for a bit before heading out to Haus Mitt Beer and Pretzel Night with Lilly and Ashley. I had never been before, but it was a pretty fun event with tons of people I knew to talk to. I had promised Joe I would see him there, but we did not end up talking much. I had also told Jessica that I would be there and that I wanted to see her before I left.

The party died down soon after Jessica came, so we headed back to her room at Chi Theta Chi, where we just chilled and talked for several hours. After knowing each other for thirteen years, there is always plenty to talk about. It helped that I hadn't spent any real time with her for more than a quarter and that she is graduating and we will probably never go to school together again.

I left Chi Theta Chi a little after 2 am, when I went back to Yost. Ben wasn't even back from working on CS homework at Synergy, so I waited in my car to get back in. When we got back in, we talked with Clementine and Julien, probably the only other people awake in Yost for a while. I told Julien about my idea of writing an article on the Stanford Physics Department and how they do such a poor job with undergraduate education. It was encouraging to hear that he agreed with me on most points of my argument, and that I am not alone in thinking that the department could use a bit of a push in the direction of better teaching. I think he agreed that his experience with the department, particularly with required courses, has been largely negative. (Hopefully, more on that later. I keep telling people that I might write this article in the Daily, so I probably should man up and do it.) A bit later I went to sleep.

On the conversations I had:
Without going into details on what I talked about with all these wonderful people all day, I will say that I talked about some awesome, serious, meaningful stuff. Discussions covered plans for Oxford, plans for senior year, plans for graduating, plans for graduate school, plans for careers, balancing family with professions, academia vs. industry, life priorities, marriage, past relationships, current relationships, ideal romantic relationships, divorce, benefits of journaling, old stories, shared experiences, old friends, old enemies, the role of education, different styles of education, current academic interests, Edden's bar mitzvah, Judaism, conversion to Judaism, comedy, improvisation, the appeal of the 9-to-5 job, traveling, the difficulties of traveling, traveling alone vs. traveling in groups, the adventurousness of people, and so on and so on and so on. I wish I could remember it all and write it all down, but I just can't do either. I will just say that I love days like yesterday, and I wish I had more of them. I will remember bits and pieces of these conversations for some time to come, and their memory will influence me in small ways forever.

One thing concrete that came out of all this came from my conversation with Jessica. Jessica reminded me of something I thought of doing some time ago, but never did. It is easier said than done. She mentioned that she has never nailed down and written out explicitly what values and morals she believes in and stands for. This is something I would really like to do and may attempt to do in this blog at some point in the future. So far, all I have is that I believe firmly that the loss or taking of a human life is, in the most general case, a negative thing. It is to be avoided and postponed when possible. Of course, it may be permissible under unfortunate circumstances, war, euthanasia, or the death penalty for example, but it is still a negative thing. That's the only thing I am going to say I believe in for now. Well, I guess promotion of Truth is probably a generally good thing also, but I'll have to think about it and get back to you.

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