January 11, 2005

The Path of Least Resistance

I've been doing a small version of the CMU tradition of signing up for too many classes, then visiting them the first week, looking at the syllabi, then figuring out which ones I really want to take and dropping the rest. At this point in my graduate career (i.e. near the bitter end), I'm pretty unwilling to take on more ambitious classes that will distract me further from my thesis work and post-school planning (finding housing, jobs, etc.). Right now, it's all about the path of least resistance to graduation day.

It sounds horribly lazy, and it probably is, but I feel like I've gotten my money's worth from school already. You could take classes forever, really, given the time and inclination. After meeting with some companies over winter break, I definitely have very little inclination to do that. I don't want to waste my remaining time here at school, but neither do I want to burn myself out completely. This semester is crammed with so much stuff: teaching, conferences, presenting my thesis paper and project, finishing my thesis paper and project, career days, and hopefully graduating, that something had to give. And that something was my desire to squeeze every last drop from CMU that I possibly can. It simply isn't possible and it's getting in the way of the goal: May 14th, when I will hopefully be called a Master of Design.

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December 18, 2004

Fall's End

Elizabeth is right: it's at the end of the semester that taking studio classes really catches up to you, with their final projects. I haven't posted here in 10 days, which is probably the longest I've gone while school is in session without an entry. When I haven't been furiously working (7am-midnight, 7 days a week), or taking final classes, I've simply been too exhausted and/or burned out to blog.

In any case, fall semester is over now, and all my projects turned in, and I've even gotten some of my grades, including the first B I've gotten in grad school. (Bs in grad school are the equivalent of the "Gentleman's C" of an earlier era.) I'm trying not to be annoyed by it, but it probably blows my chances of getting into the graduate school's honor society, Phi Kappa Phi. My GPA is now 3.88, my lowest previous grade being an A- (and only one of those). But it's not about grades, right? Right.

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November 15, 2004

Wake Up Call

Today was probably the last time I'll ever wake up at 6:00 am, trudge blearily to my laptop, and register for classes before trudging back to bed again. It's good and bad.

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November 1, 2004

Figuring Out My Spring 05 Schedule

When I was young, some of my favorite comic books were the Marvel "What If...?" series, where some decision or event happened differently and they show the consequences. The spring course schedule is out, and it's time to play What If with my schedule. "What if I took Class X? Then I need Class Y so I have enough units to graduate." Etc.

It's hard to believe that it is already time to choose spring classes and that this is the last time I'm ever going to do it. Grad school is rushing by.

And oh the decisions I have to make. Here's a small sampling of the courses I could choose from:

But I've only got two slots left and the last semester is very intense, thesis-project wise. Plus job hunting. And teaching. So I don't want to overextend myself. Decisions, decisions.

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September 15, 2004

The Difference Between Computers and Calculators

In the course description of Golan Levin's Introduction to Interactive Graphics, it says that no programming experience is necessary. Yesterday's class totally disproved that notion. Had I not taken Computing in Design last year, I would have been totally overwhelmed and lost. Homework for this week includes such "simple" Processing exercises as:

Develop a composition which in which one thousand lines respond to the cursor.

The 3 hour class last night was an introduction to programming that covered nearly the same amount of material as the entire semester of Computing in Design did, minus arrays: if/else statements, for statements, basic syntax, and the different types of numbers. When you have a number, you have to specify what type of number it is. Floats have decimals and thus, in animation, help achieve smooth organic movement since your cursor can land on a coordinate like 20.345. Integers have no decimals and are good for counting. Boolean is a number that can only have true or false.

There's two main differences between computers and calculators, according to Golan: iteration and if. The computer can do millions of iterations easily. If statements (if this happens, then do this) are the beginning of a system that responds to humans. It's rudimentary reactivity, but it's a start.

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September 8, 2004

Intro to Interactive Graphics

I had my first class in Golan Levin's Fundamentals of Interactive Graphics course last night. It's taught through the art department, with a strong programming component. Here's the description:
This course is an introduction to the use of computer programming as an expressive visual tool. It is a "studio art course in computer science," in which the objective is art and design, but the medium is software. Rigorous exercises in the Proce55ing flavor of Java will develop the basic vocabulary of constructs that govern static, dynamic, and interactive graphics. Topics include the computational manipulation of: point, line and shape; texture, value and color; time, change and motion; reactivity, connectivity and feedback. Students will become familiar with basic software algorithms, computational geometry, digital signal filtering, kinematic simulation, and the application of these techniques to aesthetic issues in interaction design.

We'll be learning Processing to create works of art and design. But it's not just using the computer to make art: it's using the computer as the medium of art. It's not a computer graphics class; it's rather about responsiveness, creating pieces that respond to human actions and operate in cultural and aesthetic spheres.

Despite its brutal time period (6:30-9:30 pm), this could be a really fascinating and challenging class.

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