Archive for December, 2010

Changing times call for changing website themes

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

As we are to proceed to another new year, I figured it would be as good a time as any to update the aesthetics of my site. Finally having learned how to tweak backgrounds in WordPress themes was also compelling motivation for an update.

I originally was going for an Ichthyosaur theme, but while drawing the extinct fish-reptile, I forgot about the dorsal fin and accidentally gave the thing a semblance of a neck, which now makes it more of a combination between a Mosasaur and Basilosaur. Eight-year-old-dinosaur-expert Me would be ashamed of this.

So this…thing basically has the head of a basilosaur, and the body of the ichthyosaur. Goddammit. Such is Art for many — it never turns out like how you expect it.

Frustration of the Day

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Vagueness in sentence writing —

Awesome for literary fiction.

Horrific for science questions.

Dear Physics textbook writer and science professors who write my tests, please don’t half-ass your question phrasing. I’d like to know what you guys are actually asking before y’all start taking off points. You write, “What can you say about the motion of the Earth-Moon system about the Sun?” and expect me to answer:

“It is this Earth Moon CM location that actually traces out the orbit as discussed in chapter 5.The Earth and Moon will orbit about this location in (approximately) circular orbits. Themotion of the Moon, for example, around the Sun would then be a sum of two motions: i) themotion of the Moon about the Earth Moon CM; and ii) the motion of the Earth Moon CMabout the Sun. To an external observer, the Moon s motion would appear to be a small radius,higher frequency circular motion (motion about the Earth Moon CM) combined with a largeradius, lower frequency circular motion (motion about the Sun)It is this Earth Moon CM location that actually traces out the orbit as discussed in chapter 5. The Earth and Moon will orbit about this location in (approximately) circular orbits. The motion of the Moon, for example, around the Sun would then be a sum of two motions: i) the motion of the Moon about the Earth Moon CM; and ii) the motion of the Earth Moon CM about the Sun. To an external observer, the Moon s motion would appear to be a small radius,higher frequency circular motion (motion about the Earth Moon CM) combined with a large radius, lower frequency circular motion (motion about the Sun)”?

Punks.

It is impossible for me to study with music playing

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

I swear, I swear, I fucking swear, as soon as I finish this post, and Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” is done playing, I’ll stop playing music in an attempt to actually get some desperate work done.

For crying out loud, I can barely even type this post while music is playing, and typing out random words is far less difficult than trying to understand fucking 2-d inelastic collisions between two objects. I have no fucking focus/multitasking threading ability.

I’ll be staring at a page, and then I’ll get distracted by the lyrics of the song. Then I’ll decide to give full attention to the song, at which point, I lose track of the lyrics because I start thinking again about the stuff on the page.

Wait — wait,  I should try listening to instrumental music? I’ve already tried that. Just take the above two sentences in the last mini-paragraph, and swap all instances of the word “lyrics” with the phrase “chord progression.” Classical music doesn’t even work, even Bach Baroque pieces that bore me to tears.

I know this Indian pre-med kid in my year. The cat can lucidly process organic chemistry while jamming to Lil’ Wayne. I’m not gonna lie — I’m kinda jealous of him for having that insane ability. For sure, I could really use those skills. I’d like to hunt down every last track I’d ever possibly enjoy in my life time. And yeah, I know that’s an impossible task, for me, or any human, any android, cyborg, even robot,  but to be able to listen to music while studying — that would help me make that much of a larger dent in my quest for sonic pleasures.

Oh. “It’s Oh So Quiet” has long ended. The playlist is now at “You’ve Been Flirting Again.” I gotta finish this sing.

And then, the one after that.

Then maybe I can get my ass back to work.

Digital Cultures Project Conclusions

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Ultimately, from November 28th, to December 3th, I would end up spending a total 902 minutes of my life online, just a bit over 15 hours. That’s an average of about 3 hours per day. I would most frequently visit these following websites over the span of those 15 hours:

(I’d like to note again that my own website is uncharacteristically high on those rankings because I was working on this project — I’d like to convince myself that I am not a narcissist. )

I can’t help but to wonder how things would’ve been had I cut down on around half that time. 7.5 hours — that’s a whole good night’s worth of sleep, and one less all-nighter.  But, as I mentioned before, it ain’t so simple.

That brings us back to the question I posited on Day III — it’s pretty damn clear that my compulsive Gmail (looks like it’s spelled with a lower case ‘m’ after all) and Wikipedia and Pitchfork browsing are a detriment to my immediate efficiency in regards to the completion of assignments (like this one) — but do my browsing habits make for long term gains?

I’ve done some more pondering, and I have to answer that question with a resounding yes. For example, my Pitchfork visits — I’m not just on there for the sake of being amused by existentialist soliloquys from failed musicians-turned-bloggers-turned-Pitchfork-writers. As a person looking to get into music  video production, I need to discover aurally pleasing bands to reach out to. And the Wikipedia usage? It at least helps with providing great conversational fillers. When conversations head towards a dead end, I can pull a random bit of Wiki-knowledge out of my ass to prevent things from degenerating into stupid talk about weather or women. This sounds trivial, but maintaining good conversations are important for the maintenance of friendship, which in turn, ties into the concept of social capital and networking. Networking, ain’t that the name of the game? Oh, and the Gmail usage? Day V just demonstrated that I really couldn’t live without it.

One question tends to lead to another though, and there is no exception to be found here. These long term gains — are they overall worth the massive hemorrhaging of short-term efficiency? Indeed, my inability to concentrate has already bitten me in the ass several times already this quarter — I’ve bombed several huge midterms because I’ve lost focus at critical points of studying, which have severely dropped my grades. At this point, I’m still not wholly sure where my career is headed. The music video thing is but a nascent dream. Such is youth. If I do indeed end up trying for a different career, contingent on grades — I could’ve screwed myself over because of just several inopportune hours of browsing at the wrong time.

Contrarily, my inability to concentrate has also saved my ass. I recently took a final where the professor included some questions on the test pertaining to material he didn’t cover too extensively in class. How was I able to answer them? It just happened that the day before, studying for this test had led me on a whole Wikipedia tangent. I’d looked up and independently learned this information in the name of fun, without knowing that this “fun” would prove so beneficial.

And even if this information hadn’t appeared on the test, knowledge acquired is still knowledge acquired. Suppose a student who was doing an assignment had trouble focusing and decided to switch between his textbook about the history of Sub-Saharan Africa and Malcolm X’s autobiography. It wouldn’t receive the same connotation as “cyberslacking.” Perhaps, it would even be somewhat admired. Awww, look at how scholarly that kid is. But the action very closely resembles a student switching between an assignment and tangentially related Wikipedia articles, which, in all likelihood, would be considered “cyberslacking” by the professor.

In both cases, whether switching between assignment and book, or switching between assignment and Wikipedia, the kid is learning information for the hell of it, boosting his worldly-awareness. In that sense, the kid is doing work, even when he’s not technically making headway into his assignment. While cyberslacking, he’s doing work that may not yield immediate benefits in the form of a good grade, but perhaps something more important in regards to his maturation and development. After all, isn’t the point of higher education supposed to be about instilling scholarly, knowledge-seeking principles with the grade only being an incentive? The incentive just seems to have surpassed the ultimate goal and priority and importance, clouding the fact that work is still being done on Wikipedia. I’m going to loosely draw from Leland Yee, who wrote the article “The Labor of Fun” — all about how labor being done is still labor, whether or not a person is conscious of the fact that he is working. Learning is still learning when knowledge is being acquired, whether or not the student is nonchalantly waltzing through Wikipedia, or slogging through The Scarlet Letter in the name of academia.

And goddammit, some may argue that information being acquired on Wikipedia is not “knowledge of worth,” that information has to be vetted, assigned by qualified gatekeepers to be considered constructive, that information must flow from the pages of books whose publication apparently justify the value of their material. But who’s to say what’s worthwhile and what’s not? I consider many of the classes I’ve experienced at Northwestern to have been valuable experiences, but I do have my doubts about how much of the material I’ve learned will actually be practically applied profession, used to advance my socioeconomic status. I, along many other students, am here to learn for the sake of learning, to become more educated and cultured for reasons that could fill an entire other blog post. If anything, I’ve learned more practical information online when I’ve been dicking around. School did not teach me how to slice onions and cauliflowers. The Internet did.

Much of the histrionics over cyberslacking and the fall of mankind’s attention arguably rains down from an established corporate top, butthurt over the fact that their underlings are slacking. A lot of these articles decrying cyberslacking talk about how the practice is costing employers money, eating into their profits. They’re written from a very business-empathizing point of view. And for corporate, it’s all about the fucking bottom line. Paraquoting this article by this guy named Andrew Ross, businesses have been gleefully taking advantage of the current job climate, in which they can maximize profits by getting people to do miserably work for free, or for a far lower salary. Because of their priorities, raising revenue, getting good quarterly reports to investors, businesses have rarely celebrated and emphasized personal learning for individual good at the cost of “company time.” and These CEOs, CFOs presidents, board members hate cyberslacking because they feel that it’s eating into their juicy bonuses. These guys aren’t going to the media out of concern for the personal well-being of their employees. They can’t see beyond the fact that their employees are humans who need breaks and get bored without stimulation.

******

Tangent: I originally decided to do this project in blog format because I liked the irony of it. I figured, hey, wouldn’t be funny if I did a project about wasting time over something that people frequently associate with wasting time? Unfortunately, there are limitations to blogging, a lot of which have to do with the HTML/CSS theme of the blog. This post is just growing a little long, given that the theme has a slim body area (I wish I could change it, but unfortunately have little experience in the way of web design). So, I figured it’s time to draw this conclusion to a conclusion so that no one has to do too much scrolling.

I still can’t prove or disprove my hypothesis that my cyberslacking is overall, detrimental. There’s too much evidence that points either way. I suppose I set out with a hypothesis that was too vague and nonspecific.

Nonetheless, while this case study hasn’t yielded much in the way of firm conclusiveness, I’m tilting towards a no in terms of cyberslacking as a detrimental behavior. My practice would be looked down upon by corporate hiring, professors who want high class averages and wish that students spent every available minute on their material, among other folks. And perhaps, I’ll eventually grow to look down on myself  if I end up worse off in life career-wise because of hurt grades.

Going off the small amount of life experience I’ve had so far, my cyberslacking has just yielded far too many benefits for me to write it off because of some corporate frustrations that the media has picked up. I have few regrets. Yeah, I wish I could take back some of that time I spent stalking people on Facebook, playing Robot Unicorn Attack, and refreshing my GMail , comes the fact that Wikipedia has taught me so much, opening the size of my awareness. For free. I’ve discovered gigabytes worth of awesome music, and a possible career avenue thanks to Pitchfork. The New York Times has pointed out what’s going on around my world, so I can be citizen in addition to a student.

I’m tempted to use the moniker “cyberdreaming,” instead of cyberslacking. Cyberslacking intrinsically has a negative connotation because of the second half of the word, and I’m not ready to associate the behavior with harm. Indeed, my web browsing habits have almost become an extension of my daydreaming. All this random knowledge is a boon to my spontaneous creativity, which may end up being worth more to me than an A in Physics.

“May.” That’s the key word. Just as many of those articles indicated within their speculation, that the nascent scientific research into the phenomenon still only yields ambiguous “maybe”‘s and “likely”‘s, I myself will have to wait until I can offer a much more definitive opinion. Admittedly, a lot of it will be contingent on how job prospects and career decisions turn out.

But one step at a time, right?

We’ll see. For now, I’ll keep cyberdreaming.

Digital Cultures Project Day V

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Graphs:

Analysis:
Ah 5, what a nice number. It’s easy-on-the-tongue sound. And it has such a clean, symmetrical Roman numeral. But alas, the experiment on Day V did not go so nicely.

Why? Remember how V was supposed to be the day when I avoided GMail and Wikipedia altogether, seeing as those two sites were my most major time-suckers, to see how that would affect my academic productivity?

Well, that plan was totally derailed. I was not able to stay away from them, and thus, you now see both GMail and Wikipedia at the top of the rankings (at 1st and 3rd respectively).

I had actually been doing okay up until about 3 pm. In fact, I hadn’t visited the Internet period up until that point. But then, a fellow student told me that a professor had e-mailed scores of a test to us. And I had to see — not just to know what I got for the heck of it, but to know how well I would have to do on the final to get my desired grade in the class. So I opened up Gmail, and that was it. The floodgates were open. I pored through the rest of my inbox, devouring through every school-related, extracurricular-related, music-related message, and found several other additional messages that contained fairly important information. Missing those would have boded poorly for me. And in turn, things I weren’t sure about in those emails led me to look up stuff on Wikipedia. So, when all was said and done, I ended up settling back around my average browsing time. And again, I got a similar amount of academic work in time-wise as I did the day before.

Call me spineless for being unable to resist the allures of this Internet. (But don’t call me lily-livered, which is synonym of spineless, according to Thesaurus.com) But not going on would have ultimately proved detrimental. Ironically, not checking my email in the name of academics would’ve royally screwed me over academically — I would’ve missed on a couple of mandatory requirements and deadlines for assignments.

So, was Day V a complete failure? Did it render the experiment worthless? Recall that one vague goal of this experiment consisted of identifying, confirming potential time-eaters of my web browsing. I believe I successfully did that over Days I-IV, demonstrating that GMail+Google and Wikipedia were the chief black holes. The second vague goal of this experiment consisted of making some adjustments in my web-browsing habits to see how it could affect my academic productivity, particularly see whether it could increase my efficiency. I obviously didn’t end up making significant headway towards accomplishing my second goal.

But while I won’t be able to get a good grip on how many more physical book pages I could’ve read over the course of the day with reduced GMail/Wiki usage, I can still come away from this having learned some points. Day V, this experiment, was not a personal failure. I’ll be covering more of these thoughts in more depth for my conclusion posting, but to get things started, if anything, I learned on that final day that as a college student aspiring for success, it’s downright impossible for me to excise my GMail and Wikipedia usage. I tried to convince myself that maybe Day V just happened to have an abnormal amount of important emails, but skimming further back reveals that previous days had comparative amounts of “can’t-be-missed” emails. I’ve come to reason that there seemed to be more on Day V because I didn’t check my inbox until after 3. I went through more of these messages at once, as opposed to reading them one at a time with more spread-out email checking over a day’s course.

Building on that thought, even had I not gone to GMail, Wikipedia whatsoever, I have my doubts over whether or not I would’ve been significantly more productive. I did spend my time in the morning and early afternoon free from GMail and Wiki, relatively free from the Internet as a whole. But I still feel like I didn’t get too much done. For sure, the pages of my Physics book didn’t turn very quickly. I spent a lot of time cycling between telling myself not to go online, wondering about what I was missing, and staring at various objects across my room in search of stimulation. Which seems truly time-wasting. Even if something I picked up on Wikipedia might not be immediately useful, a learned fact is still a fact learned, knowledge acquired. I didn’t really come away from my vapid, slogging mental drift, having absorbed anything new. (To play Devil’s advocate against myself, maybe I actually would’ve been more productive, had I waited slightly longer and gotten settled into a state of concentration. I’d woken up at 11. After I ate, showered, dressed, it was already past noon. For me, channeling and building up focus takes a bit of time, perhaps more than that 2 and something hours elapsed before I was driven to check my email.)

But anyhow, I’ll cut myself short for now and save the rest of my thoughts for the conclusion post, which I’ll take a stab at after some hours of shuteye.

******

P.S: Courtesy of the professor of the very class that this project is for, I discovered that Internet procrastination and discretionary browsing does have an official term – “cyberslacking.” To think that I’ve thought about cyberslacking for so long without knowing the proper name encompassing the damn topic. Better late than never, I guess.