Friday, May 04, 2007

Jorge Cham at Ohio State

So I've not felt like blogging lately, apparently. According to Jorge Cham, this isn't a bad thing; "procrastination is when you're doing what you want to be doing." I heard him say so himself Tuesday night when he gave a talk here at OSU to an auditorium full of graduate students. (Is it bad that though I knew there was a coffee shop on the first floor of the building, I had no idea what its name was?)
Anyhow, the talk was entertaining, even for someone like me whose been reading the comics regularly for the last, uhm, six years. It started with a routine "I had to learn about Ohio State before coming here" bit ... talking about how the Wikipedia article for OSU is gushing about how big and great of a university it is ... and then we find out that Larry Sanger apparently is an OSU alum and it all begins to make sense.

So this part isn't going to be funny; I know, and I'm sorry, but deal with it. Apparently one of the main points of Cham's talks is that many graduate students are depressed. Apparently, for many people, graduate school is the first time when the ratio of what they think they know to what they think they don't know becomes very small, the first time they feel as if they are not "one of the best" at something. Uhm, so that would have been ... 11th grade for me, at the latest. And if it hadn't happened then, a few days at MIT would have cured that right up. And it goes without saying that my self-confidence is muuuch higher now than it was when I was an undergrad ... although that really isn't saying all that much. My view of stress as an undergrad v. as a grad student is somewhat skewed; while MIT is a high-stress environment, it's also true that my current department most certainly is not, relative to other places (or what's portrayed in the comics). And, seriously, if people are unhappy as graduate students because they don't like what they're doing, then, uhm, why are they in grad school to begin with? People should be doing what makes them happy.

Anyhow, the talk was pretty good and all around entertaining; the only thing that could have made it funnier would have been if he'd actually made a L'Hopital's Rule joke instead of just alluding to the possibility of one. More jokes about how annoying undergrads are would have also been appreciated. They were, unfortunately, not selling the new book (which ships, I think, tomorrow). I'd even brought money from one of my officemates (which I should return ...) to buy one. Instead, I was one of three people to win a raffle for a free (old) book, which is funny because I already own both books. Two years ago Cham gave a talk at MIT, and instead of going, I took a nap. (I was thesing, OK?) A friend bought both books for me—and got them autographed—as a graduate gift. So, I decided to give my free book to one of my officemates, who had decided to not come to the hour-long talk because he needed to work. No lie. Severe workaholic silliness I try very hard to not compare myself to.

Regardless, how come there aren't any couches in my department? My brother, a graduate student in history, maintains his office has one exactly like this:

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