Archives by Month: May 2012

Colby Transformed

So for any of you guys who don’t know, I am working on campus this summer for around ten weeks working for the Colby Computer Science Department. My position is technically a “system administrator” which really just means I do a bunch of things – I think my primary job is to work with two other research assistants on programming robot soccer however I’ll be doing a ton of other things like installing software on the correct machines, etc. For now, I’ve just been working on the robot soccer end of things – learning C, learning the hardware and software, and just getting to know what I’m doing. In the end, I think it’ll be pretty cool – we’re kind of jumping off work people have already done for the department, so our robots are already able to walk and semi detect the soccer ball that they are supposed to both chase and kick. The whole thing is very independent, we don’t have any set hours – just show up and work 7 hours a day. Our “director” I guess you could call him is Professor Maxwell, who helps us out from time to time but for the most part it is just the three of us working pretty independently to get the project done.

 
I’m sure I’ll talk a lot more about what I’m doing in terms of work in later blog posts once we get a little further along (We’re here for 10 weeks? Wow. I can’t even imagine what things will be like 2 and a half months from now) But that reminds me, besides work there’s the whole kind of social aspect of being on campus for the summer. I guess I’ll start off by saying that my first day on campus I went to Pulver at four in the afternoon – and by god it was locked. I was a little blown away, to say the least. For the rest of that day, campus was like a ghost town – most kids hadn’t completely arrived yet and were still coming in. After work started, however, I started to see what campus was really like – it was empty but still very active. If anything, it was a lot nicer than during the school year. The 200 or so of us on campus have the place to ourselves, so while there’s still a lot of stuff going on, it’s a lot more free and relaxed.

 
So far as I can tell, the community is just awesome. Since there aren’t that many people, this first week has kind of been like our first week of freshman orientation: where everyone was meeting each other and hanging out. I’ve probably met more new people in the past week than during all of last semester. It’s very interesting to me to think what things will be like ten weeks down the road: not only is that the length of a regular semester, but because 1.) it’s summer and awesome and 2.) we don’t have any work to do outside of our jobs, we will actually get to know each other way better than a normal semester. Once things really start up (a few more kids are still arriving on campus, dining halls and other facilities don’t operate at their normal rate until June 9) I think things will be even better than they are now. Especially once the weather heats up and summer comes in full swing. I think I’ll talk a lot more about both my work and Colby during the summer in the future, but for now that’s kind of just a quick introduction to what I’ve seen so far!

-Nick

New dock outside Go-Ho?

Took this as I was going for a run:

Sunset:

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MyColby and More

So because this is my last week left at home before I head up to Colby for the summer, I thought I’d talk about the virtual Colby community – the only connection a lot of us have to each other over the summer. While this takes place mostly on Facebook, the two big official connections that students have to Colby are the MyColby website and the Colby email system. Here are a couple good things to know about each!

MyColby:

MyColby pretty much has all the official information you’ll ever need about you as a student. While there are a ton of different parts to it, there are only a few that students use on a regular basis – the academics section, the campus life section, and the finances section. Because grades just came out, pretty much every current student has recently spent a ton of time on the academics section, where it has your transcript, current grades, and stuff like that. It’s also where you add and drop classes, declare a major, look at your advisor assignment, and do course evaluations. For the most part, this is the most important part of the site and the one where people go on the most. In a sort of weird way, it’s like your only official connection to the school. I’ve always found it kind of weird that I just “showed up” on campus freshman year, and without officially talking to anyone began to start taking classes with this being my only connection. (Since then, obviously I talk to my advisor and my teachers, but it always sort of amazes me how independent everything is still. The only official forms I ever fill out are virtual)

Anyways, besides academics, you also can see what your room information is, (although campus life has a whole other massive page for room draw) off campus study info, (again, there’s a HUGE separate page for this) and write evaluations for professors. For me, professor evaluations are the best part – because they’re anonymous, I love how I can openly speak my mind about how I think they’re doing. Generally, this takes the form of me just saying a lot of ridiculously flattering things about my awesome professors, but I do try to critique them as well.

Colby Email:

Besides MyColby, the one main hub that a Colby student has to kind of connect them to school is their email. During the school year, everyone probably gets an average of ten official emails from the school a day. Most of these I honestly don’t read, (hint for future Colby students: a subject line meaning “OFFICIAL NOTICE” means there’s no point in reading it) but most students do and probably should. The best email you ever get from Colby, though, is the infamous civil discourse. Released every day a bit after midnight, this comes out along with General Announcements emails, the Bulletin, and other such notices and is a sort of public forum into matters happening at Colby. I don’t want to talk too much about the discourse, because I’ve always wanted to write a massive blog post on the matter, but all I’ll say is that me and my roommate always eagerly await the discourse ever single night of the school year. Anyways, next week I’ll be writing to you guys from Colby!

 

-Nick

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Finals Week (And some math)

Let me start off this week’s blog by saying if you’re looking to get pumped up for college, don’t read the rest of this. Last week, the Colby campus was full of kids drinking coffee like it was water, people pulling all nighters for never-ending papers, and students having nervous breakdowns in the middle of the library. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic. But it’s safe to say the usual campus atmosphere was a lot more depressed than the usual energetic and up beat campus that we have every week of the semester but finals week. Generally finals week differs for everyone depending on what their major is and what classes they take, but no matter what you’re studying you’re going to notice this very dramatic and sudden change coming over campus at the end of the semester. You find yourself crashing at 4 AM and waking up at 7, not talking to anyone for days at a time, and having nightmares about your tests. Like actually. Sunday night I had a dream about Super PACs. Clearly my massive campaign finance paper and final was getting to me a bit.

Anyways, I could probably say a bunch more about finals week but: 1) I didn’t want to depress you guys too much 2) I didn’t want to depress myself too much and 3) I wanted to talk a bit about grades! This means that for this week we’re going to mix it up a bit: I thought that instead of writing the usual blog, I would throw in a bit of math. For those of you who are prospective students and fresh out of some high school AP Calc, feel free to point out any stupid things I did – otherwise, if you’re a parent, this is a good way to try to bring back your high school or college algebra skills!

Colby likes to torture students and not release grades for a few weeks after the semester ends. If you submit professor evaluations, you get them a bit earlier. But what the registrar’s office has overlooked (or maybe just isn’t too worried about) is that your GPA and credit hours update whenever a professor puts in a new grade. So, what you can do is obsessingly stalk the MyColby page and whenever your credit hours update by four, you know a new grade has been submitted. To find what this grade is, you can do something like the following: (x is the grade you’re looking for)

x = ((new GPA * new credit total) – (previous credit total * previous GPA)) / (new credit total – previous credit total)

Solve for x, and voila, your grade, revealed. I was debating describing the process of how I painstakingly found my awesome formula to you guys and where I derived it from, but I figured nobody would read it. And, I need to go apply for a job helping out with an Augusta lobbyist firm when I’m at Colby over the summer. See you guys next week!

Nick

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is it Monday yet?

It’s Friday evening, and all I can think about is Monday. That’s because by the time this Monday rolls around, days of the week won’t exist to me anymore. The only concept I’ll have of time is that it will be SUMMERTIME!

Never have I wanted Monday to come so badly. Still, at the same time, I can’t believe it will be here so soon. I’m feeling a little freaked out that I’m almost not a freshman anymore. Next year people will expect me to know what I’m doing. Yikes. Plus, I think I’m going to miss this place. I’m definitely going to miss the people here.

We’ll get through these last exams, but don’t miss out on the last moments of the year. Monday, here we come!

Alice

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Evening Adventures

Having now spent nearly two years at Colby, I can say that I actually don’t mind reading period. I may even slightly like it. To me, there’s something nice about knowing that I don’t actually have to be anywhere for most of the day; I merely have the entire two-day reading period (plus the time before my first scheduled final, which is usually a couple of days after the end of reading period) to work on assignments. Not having any scheduled commitments generally makes me quite productive, which means that, during reading period, I have time to both do my work and have a little bit of fun, too.

As of late, I’ve tried to spend my free nights or part of the day on a weekend exploring and appreciating the Maine area. Last week, I went to Camden with a friend. Even though it was raining, we still had a blast. The scenery was amazing, and we were able to eat dinner at a waterfront restaurant. Similarly, over the weekend, we went to Portland. However, instead of spending the entire time touring the city, we decided to take the ferry to one of the nearby islands. We went to Peaks Island. There were not many activities, per se, at Peaks Island, but we still had a blast. It’s a great area just to take a long, multiple hour walk—that is exactly what we did, actually. There are tons of pretty houses to look at, and docks to explore. When walking through Peaks Island, it almost feels like you’re being taken back a couple of decades in history; and yet there’s something wonderfully relaxing about this feeling.

I find that these kinds of mini adventures are the perfect way to unwind during what is a very hectic, stressful, and chaotic time. Because students have virtually all day to do work, most can afford to spend an evening relaxing for a bit, and what better way to do that than explore Maine? I, for one, certainly plan on continuing with these adventures, especially since I’ve completed most of my work by this point of finals week. Sometime soon, I think I will explore Bangor. Or maybe Bar Harbor. Then again, there are four more islands near Portland that I have yet to explore. Oh, the options!

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This is it.

The homestretch, if you will. And I will. Consider it a vacation, and you know what people always say about vacations – they really make you appreciate wherever you’re taking that vacation from. And I miss New York.

I need to eat something. I’ve been ordering take out at least twice a week for the last month and I don’t have a job that can support that kind of indulgent lifestyle. I make myself feel better by telling myself that it saves me time that I can better use working, but what usually happens is I and too anxious for it to come that I can’t do work until it arrives, and then I can’t do work while I’m eating either because I “deserve a break.” I need to finish my finals before my brain shuts down completely. I’m kind of burnt out.

Taking 5 classes isn’t really that strenuous until the end of the year. But considering it’s the end of the year I’m in the weeds a little bit. I just handed in an art portfolio that contained a semester’s amount of work, culminating in the painting of a still life that actually turned out pretty well. Turns out I’m a good color mixer of acrylic paints, so if you need a guy.

But that’s an elective. Given that I’m a humanities kid, I’ve got roughly 30 pages I am going to have to write in between now and next Monday. You’d think that I’d be used to it by now, being a rising senior, but no it’s still foreboding and deflating to think about in that quantity. So what I like to do is to break it down by days: tomorrow night I need to have 10 pages done for a class; by Friday I will have to do 10 more; Monday my parents come up and I hand in my last 2 papers.

The week is basically over, right?

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spread the love!

When you live with people, you learn how to read them. Constantly being around my friends at Colby has taught me the importance of looking out for one another.

There are times in college when you forget the reason why you’re working so hard. When work piles up and you get stressed, it gets hard to see the big picture. I’ve learned that these are the times when it’s most important to reach out to friends. Whether I’m the one feeling that way or I see someone else struggling, I’ve learned it’s worth it to sit down and talk to someone.

Of all the valuable things about college, one of the most valuable things is the friends you make. I’d say it’s worth going to college just to have the experience of making those friends. The friends I’ve made this year are, in many cases, very different from me. We are interested in different things, we take different classes, we have different beliefs. This experience, of learning how to trust someone who has a totally different view of the world than you do, teaches you how to truly respect their views. Being friends with people different than you also builds those friendships on deeper things than a shared opinion or hobby. I’ve learned how to reach out to people that I maybe wouldn’t have reached out to before, and because of this I’ve made incredible friends. We’re not friends because we like the same music or are from the same place – it runs deeper than that.

Thanks to all of the friends I’ve made this year. Also, thank you for taking care of me this week when I got sick away from home for the first time.

If there are times when a certain class or homework assignment is wearing you down, remember that there are always people in your life to support you. If nothing else matters, it’s the people who you depend on and who depend on you that do matter. Love one another.

Alice H

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Ending the Year With a Bang

I am not even close to comprehending the fact that I am leaving Colby next week and won’t be back until soccer tryouts in August. Weirdly, it feels similar to when I left home to come to Colby last summer; in the sense that my social, academic, and every other kind of mentality is directed towards things going on at Colby. I haven’t reflected much upon the year as a whole past the point of knowing that it was a great experience and I have changed in a lot of positive ways. So, now that you’ve gotten through my short freshman year reminisce, I’ll tell you about what the end of second semester is like here.

Tomorrow marks the end of second semester, the beginning of Loudness, and hopefully a concurrent small break in the stress associated with finals. This loudness there will be fireworks… Yes, fireworks! On Friday night there will be fireworks over Johnson Pond. I am beyond excited at the prospect of fireworks this weekend. And that’s only a small part of all of the activities this weekend. Tonight, there’s a “Party in the US Gay” sponsored by the Bridge, (Colby’s LGBTQI group). After the fireworks on Friday, there is a dance on the lawn outside of Dana. And on Saturday there is tons of activities in the afternoon (bull riding and a bouncy house for example) followed by a concert that night.

Needless to say, it will be no problem finding a distraction from schoolwork this weekend. Thankfully Colby gives us a reading period on the Monday and Tuesday before finals to prepare for our upcoming tests and papers. I guess this weekend is technically a part of the reading period too; but with Colby enabling us to have this much fun it would be tragic not to take advantage of Loudness and by doing something as preposterous as studying the weekend before finals.

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Colby Alums

When I first came to Colby, I had a sort of phobia of alumni. The whole idea of one seemed daunting: almost a reminder of how not far through life you have gone and how much more you need to do. Mentioning alumni or meeting them served as a constant reminder that you somehow have to not only not completely and utterly fail at life, but somehow be someone like they are thirty years from now. Okay, I guess I’m being a little dramatic. But just the whole idea of an alumni is a little humbling to a current college student whose most important goal in life right now is writing a paper and worrying about whether that picture of me in a dress from last Saturday night will look good on Facebook. After graduating, alumni have to pay for gas, buy their own food, (or god forbid actually make it. Last time I tried to make a sandwich without my mom I spilled jelly all over myself and had to give up) and worst of all, do taxes. How the hell am I supposed to do that? I tried to do my tax returns a few days ago and instead forwarded the pdf to my parents, who forged my signatures and did it for me. Or something like that.

 

But I digress. I have nothing against alumni, just the whole daunting reminder that someday I’ll have to pick out my own clothes and such things. In fact, I actually love alumni with a passion and love meeting them. They’re such wondrous people: they’ve made it through all the essays, finals, internships and everything else that marks the college process. If anything, they are both tremendously reassuring at the same time they are daunting. They’ve done it all and always have that knowing smile of secretly knowing all the crazy stuff that you’ve done that you don’t tell your parents about.

 

Last summer I was amazed by how many alums I ran into as I was out and about. On an uninhabited Maine island, at a restaurant, on the beach: Colby alums are everywhere. There is just no feeling in the world as good as hearing: “Hey! Colby class of ’82!” and starting an extremely enthusiastic conversation with them. They always get nostalgic and remember all the crazy but awesome times they had, and I always find it unbelievably interesting to hear all their Colby stories and to see where they’ve been in life. It’s sort of my mission when I get off campus to scour parking lots for Colby bumper stickers and to wear my Colby t-shirts (I have a ton) everywhere I go. I swear to god, when I graduate I am going to wear a Colby shirt every single day of my life. My flying car will have a plethora of Colby bumper stickers on it that you’d only ever see on a Subaru. And when I meet a current Colby student, I’ll probably start bawling remembering all the good times I had.

-Nick

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Campus Forum

You may have heard, but there has recently been an announcement that Colby would be working toward a tobacco-free campus within the coming year. In protest, I decided to attend the Campus Forum last night – something I had not done at Colby before.

As to be expected there was a pretty big turn out – the likely candidate was the abrupt announcement of the tobacco ban. While those numbers were strong, there were a lot of other issues that students expressed concerned about towards faculty, namely race relations on campus and resources for those with learning differences.

I wouldn’t go as far to say we have race issues on campus, but there are issues regarding race – if that makes sense. Speaking strictly in terms of numbers, students of color aren’t well represented in the student body. My guess is party because of Colby’s location and partly because it is somewhat of a self-perpetuate circumstance: not a lot of SOC attend here, so not a lot apply, so not a lot attend, and so on. There is the Posse program that brings minority students from NYC to Colby on full scholarship, but that is limited to just a handful of students per class. The consensus: the college needs to and is willing to do more. Not only to recruit more students of color, but to make those that are attending feel comfortable.

The issue regarding students with learning differences is simple: we currently do not have comparable resources with many of our peer institutions in terms of facilities to accommodate these students. The students are aware of it and now the faculty is aware of it, so I trust improvements will be made.

Finally, the smoking ban. I don’t want to get to deep into this as I’ve already posted messages on Colby’s Civil Discourse, which is an email thread that the school shares, but Bro Adams (our President) cited Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York as inspiration for this ban (as a law was recently passed that smoking was no longer allowed in public parks.) I assume President Adams didn’t speak to Bloomberg directly, as Bloomberg probably would have mentioned how difficult and impractical it is to enforce such a law.

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