November 15, 2008

A few comics


If this is you, you're not alone...it's a very common occurrence, especially when important or frustrating work needs to be done to take "a minute" to surf around that turns into visiting a random string of websites that leads to a lot of time being wasted on a diversion from the original distraction from being productive. We'd like to think that technology makes us more effective or efficient...but that not always the case.


This second comic from xkcd is also an interesting commentary on our new, technology fueled existence. It won't come as a surprise to anybody who uses Facebook that the internet has created a new artificial, almost anti-social definition of 'friend'. I know that I and many of my friends are 'facebook-friends' with dozens of people I don't know well, haven't spoken to in years, or are simply acquaintances with. In some cases the internet makes social interaction easier, especially when bridging the gap between close friends living far away, but disingenuous in others... in that you can interact with someone online on a regular basis who you would have very little to do with without the internet. It's interesting to think about how Facebook contributes to communication but also makes us dependent on it, for instance, for the validation of relationships. I know some people who have said they would have to be less confident in their relationship if their partner would not make their status public.
As a side note: there have even been serious University studies into the social impacts of Facebook.

Before to Mount Allison I chatted with a few upperclassmen and other incoming frosh, and even added them as 'facebook-friends' months before I would actually meet them. At the time it was a little comforting that there were people I 'knew', that I could at least recognize, before I came here...but with few exceptions there's really no way to really know someone until you spend time with them face to face. It has been almost three months now, and at this point it's almost only the people I initially communicated with to face to face that I'm closest to. So dispite its usefulness, the internet cannot replace real-life, person to person communication.

November 14, 2008

Randomness

The last few weeks here have been pretty random. For example, on Monday I thought I would be bored to death all week...then somehow had a random Miyazaki movie night,

was convinced to go to a corny but fun "Junior Prom" fundraiser

and went on a tour of Mount Allison's underground tunnel system (pretty cool...but not somewhere I would want to be if the lights go out).

This weekend I'll be working on an essay about Science Fiction and Fantasy themes in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, a history essay on why Nova Scotia did not join the 13 colonies in the American Revolution, an article on Barack Obama, and article reviews from New Scientist. It'll be a lot of work but it is doable. Depending on your program and your work habits in high school you'll transition quite well or have a make some major changes to stay above water.

One thing that's pretty consistent is that there is almost no 'homework', but instead long-term essays and reading that you'll regret not working on regularly. For instance I'm halfway through an eight-page essay due next Friday, while I know more than a few people who will attempt to finish it on Thursday night. By November study habits have more or less stuck and you'll be either fine working steadily or rushing to make up a semester's worth of reading and writing. Sometimes the workload seems a bit overwhelming...but there's always someone to work on it with you or someone to distract you from it. There are three weeks of class, five exams, and then I'm going back home (currently Boston) for the first time since August. The first few months have seemed to fly by, and I'm looking forward to the next three and a half years at Mount Allison.

November 10, 2008

It's A New Day - will.i.am


There is something about this song that makes it personal and universal. I can't explain it...but I love it. Thank you will.i.am.

The Youth Vote

Image courtesy of WellingtonGrey.net
I don't think that many people will be making a joke out of the youth vote after what happened on November 4th.

Kal Penn illustrates the potential of the collective American youth on the day of the election:

November 9, 2008

Majors at Mount A

One of the things I like most about going to Mount Allison is that I have some flexibility when it comes to choosing my classes. For most majors, you pick from a predetermined list of classes worth 60-84 credits (at 3 credits/course, that's 20-28 classes), depending on the major and whether or not you'll pursue an Honours degree. For Arts students, with the remaining credits you have to fulfill certain distribution requirements (you have take a couple courses each from Arts and Letters Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, Science). The requirements are different depending on your program of study. See the Academic Calendar for details. Depending on your major, you may fulfill most of the distribution requirements just with your degree courses. In terms of degree options, you can choose between graduating with a Major plus a Minor, a Double Major, a General degree of three Minors, or an Honours degree. After fulfilling those requirements, you can choose whichever classes you'd like.


I know this is going to sound like blatant propaganda, but one of Mount Allison University's strengths is its size. Mount Allison is large enough to offer a variety of interesting classes while being small enough to allow for small class sizes. Students come to Mount Allison to avoid being just a number at larger Universities which are primarily concerned with graduate work and research. While Mount Allison does offer a Master's degree in Science, and professors here also do research; the main focus is on undergraduate students. The professors here commit to their posted office hours and are available for help if you ask. The teachers here care about your academic progress and are generally are flexible when it comes to assignments. I know of many instances in which teachers have given extensions even for non-emergencies and have been lenient with students with a good reason who make the effort to talk to them.

I am planning on taking a B.A. Honours in International Relations (we don't have to declare a major until the second semester of our second year). There are the required classes, but after those you are given choices between different classes from a list. For instance, I need 4 semester classes in French, German, Spanish, or Japanese. The freedom to chose expands a the 3rd and 4th years, with the requirement to take 7 classes out of about 100. I carefully chose my first year classes... but when I found out I was the only non-immersion student in my french class and that it was over my head completely it was easy to switch to a lower class next semester. I also easily switched from taking Government of Canada to Government of the US (don't worry, I'm going to take Canadian Government next year). It's always good to plan ahead, but it's reassuring that you can switch if need be.