Sunday, June 24, 2012

So..Your Parents Let You Get a Degree in French Literature?

I get asked this question, or variations of it often--usually by guys with degrees in engineering.* I've considered responses like "yes, and as you can see I'm employed in spite of this" and "well if everyone got a degree in engineering then the skill set would be less valued."

Lately I've considered changing my default response to "Not everyone is a Quant--the world needs Verbals too."

Now that I am back in grad school I can very easily see the value of being a literature geek. For example--I just took a class in computer security. A good portion of that class was about math, because it was about probability, and cryptography and cyphers.

It's hard to do math after years out of practice. (See also, my struggles with Statistics last year). It's hard to understand a lecture about math at 8 PM after working all day. I think the professor understood that. I however had no problem with the math involved in basic cryptography** because I've read Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon about 17 times. I had no problem at all with the Playfair cypher either--because Lord Peter Wimsey explains it in Dorothy Sayers's Have His Carcase.

Being widely read is helpful, but what is more helpful is the ability to analyse ideas and write about them. This is one thing that a literature degree teaches you to do well. I can no longer write a 40 page paper (or even a 4 page paper) in French, but I can analyse text--whether it's a short story or a business case--and I can explain my analyses in written form. This is useful in graduate school--even if you're getting a degree in IT.

*Yes, always guys. To be fair I've not met that many female engineers.
**Basic math--all about probability and work factor. No prime numbers were factored or harmed in this course.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's my 15th Anniversary College Reunion This Weekend and I'm Not There

I've been seeing my former classmates post about heading to the Re-U (or being at the Re-U) today and it's weirding me out. Mostly thought it's making me sad.

This is not because I want to be there. I'm pretty sure it's the kind of thing that would Not Work Out For Me (flashback to first night at Carleton with all the new students. Me talking awkwardly with an an incoming Junior in Sayles while the men's track team streaks. Me going back to dorm room to write letters to high school friends soon after.) Some people do well at big gatherings. I am not one of them. I am one of those people who hates weddings. This would just be like a giant wedding party-sans bridal couple.

I'm sad because I remember working over the summer during reunions with some of the people who are there this weekend. I remember one friend of mine ignoring alums smoking pot in the men's room in Sayles* and another having to bust skinny dipping alums in one of the pools (my summer job was security.) One of my friends said "well my boss said that if you see alums shooting up on the stirs of Sayles you should ignore them."

I remember wondering why the fuck respectable adults who could afford hotel rooms would want to come and spend a few nights sleeping in Burton--which was not only un-air-conditioned but the heat was on in the summer.

Paired with this is my remembrance of working Security on Graduation day my junior year and helping to kick all the graduates out on graduation day (and locking up after them) and a year later being kicked out myself. "A diploma is an eviction notice written in Latin." I remember how much leaving Carleton really hurt.

When I went back to visit a few years later I was talking with a friend of mind who settled in the Cities. He was saying how he went back to Carleton to visit often. I asked "Isrn't it weird to go into Sayles Hill and not have a mailbox that's yours?" He answered "I don't go into Sayles much."

Maybe I'm just depressed that me and my friends have become the alums. Maybe I'm sad because I know that going back to a reunion would probably not work for me the way it appears to be working for my facebook friends. Maybe I'm just envious because they'll be drinking Standup Falldowns** and skinny dipping in Boliou fountain while I'm at home doing homework.

But I'll get over it. I'll go to the beach tomorrow. And besides I know another Carl who lives in Beverly who's not at the Re-U this weekend. *thinking back on it thes seems like a profoundly dumb idea--there's plenty of secluded woody spots on Carleton Campus to smoke dope--there's a whole arboretum--why do your illegal activity in the bathroom of the campus center? **Probably (hopefully) not. Standup Falldowns are frozen lemonade with almost enough water and lots of cheap vodka.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hello Me Not Dead*

I realize I've been pretty silent in 2012. Part of that is because I've been busy with stuff I can't write about here--like work or buying a house--and part of it is I've just been busy.

I took a year off of grad school because work was insane and now I've started a new program. It's an MSIT program on the North shore as opposed to an MBA program in South Boston. I'll be done in about a year and it looks like it will involve less pain and suffering than UMB's program. I'm not sure how that works--less pain and done sooner--I feel like I'm cheating.

I can't believe tomorrow's actually Saturday--I don't have to set an alarm or go to work. Of course, it looks like I have to spend a good portion of the day reading about Sarbanes Oxley (a law I thought I knew pretty well--turns out it's not all about e-mail compliance) but that's okay--it beats reading about Statistics. So far there's been no group work in this program. This means I don't have to wait on anyone else to hand work in and I don't have to watch anyone arguing with anyone else.

Last night I had dinner with my pack. I drank beer on the porch with Ellen and Peter. Mike cooked stir fried Yum! with fiddleheads. We came up with another of Cantabridgienne's laws (don't sext anyone who's not in your phonebook) and talked about cars. I laughed deeply for the first time in at least two weeks ("I thought someone was skinning a womprat in here--but then I realized that it's just Cantabridgienne's laugh.")

As dumb as it sounds, I got to watch people actually seeing each other and listening to each other (and to me) instead of watching people who just broadcast but don't receive (which has been my experience of humanity this Spring.)

It made a nice change from coming home from work, whimpering and moaning to myself while watching Dollhouse until bedtime. (Mind you, I'm grateful for Dollhouse--it's nice to have a world you can slide into whe you need to recover from reality.)

*from Spamusement