To Worry, Among Other Things

In my mind at this moment is the second track on the album Lost and Safe by the Books. ‘Be Good to Them Always’. It’s a fine background melody for what’s happening. Particularly, nothing outside of what the title specifies.

So, a first post. What an exciting thing. But this will be the last mention of that.

This is what is on my mind at the moment. There are occasions when a single line of dialogue or narration will come to me and stick in my head. I assume this is what happens to people who write books, except I suspect that they have an ability to create more than a single line. One such line recently came to me, as I sat at the dinner table with my family.

It was then that he decided to kill him.

The next morning, he was surprised to find a large block of cheese and several dips on the counter, accompanied by a large loaf of bread.

It strikes me now that using ‘he’ and ‘him’ exclusively causes for a strange ambiguity to the phrase; this is how it occurred to me, and I can’t bring myself to change pronouns for unique names as I find that it changes the meaning of the phrase too much from the original intention. I’ll leave the interpretation to the reader.

The cause of my worry is silliness, as usual. I sit here and procure digital PDFs of my textbooks for next semester, meanwhile working on summer internship applications for SURF at Caltech and OSSI at NASA. I’m considering applying to Mozilla and Amazon as well, as they’ve sent offers to the Oberlin computer science department and it would be a disappointment to go into the summer without any sort of internship. Tzafrir tells me it’s best to have options, in the case that Caltech turns me down. Best to be able to say no to someone as opposed to having someone say no to you.

It’s been my dream since I was a kid to work at NASA. I had a box set of four tapes on the Apollo program that was given to me one day important, by someone close who I can’t remember now. What I do remember is, every god damn thing on those tapes. I would watch them over and over, looking at every detail, imagining what it would be like to step on something other than the earth. Imagine that! Imagine standing on the surface of the Moon, or of Mars, a whole other world. What sort of a feeling does this evoke? I imagine it must be profound, with a sense of melancholy - not sadness, but simply overwhelming. You are here, somewhere where none of our kind was ever ‘meant’ to be. You are far, and your are standing in this spot.

This is the same sort of thing I’ve imagined when I think about a trip. I think, ‘here I am, on the earth in this spot in New York, and in two days’ time I’ll be standing on the earth in Oberlin.’ There’s something visceral about being ‘on the ground’ somewhere else. When you get on a bus or a plane, you think to yourself, ‘in six hours, I’ll be on the other side of a continent’. Of course, you trade the experience of seeing all the places in between point A and point B for the treat of seeing the clouds from the other side, the sky much bluer than it should be, and the fun mechanics of flaps and control surfaces on the wing. Being polite to the flight attendants is also a big bonus, they don’t need any more trouble than they’ve usually got.

I remember also, I would read anything I could find that was in any way related to cars, planes, rockets. It was what I grew up with. The thing is, most kids say they want to be an astronaut or a pilot when they grow up. But then they actually do grow up and somewhere along the way they’ve lost interest in these pursuits, they want to go do more practical things, realistic things. This happened to me in high school. I figured, too late for that. Oh well. And then I came to Oberlin. It was not by the merit of the college that I came to this realization – as far as I know there is no legacy of Oberlin-learned astronauts. Pilots, perhaps. It was one of the realizations that comes to you when you’ve come to a new place, meeting new people, everything is saturated with ‘new’, where everyone is now telling you the opposite of what you had been told from whence you came. They said, ‘You are capable. You are able. You can do what you put your mind to.’

Though, I’ve got the feeling that this is not exactly what they had in mind when they told us that. I said, ‘I’m going to be an astronaut’.

To specify, being an astronaut has little to do with the allure of going to space, of being some sort of hero. There is an aspect of prestige, this is also not my intention. To want to be an astronaut is really saying that you want to combine engineering, science, and some human stuff. To me the statement is a souped-up ‘I want to be an engineer’. Engineering is the good stuff. Add free-fall to get Astronaut – with the addition of a lot more technology and support.

Af, that’s enough rambling about that. tl;dr: Kid say they wanna be astronauts then they grow up. I haven’t stopped yet. This means, I really really want to work at NASA over the summer, if just for a small taste of the stuff of my dreams. So I’ve got some applications to fill out. I typically nerve myself out about these sorts of things, hence the title of this post, but it helps no one to worry, less myself – so I’m trying to be confident instead. I also need to contact some researchers at the JPL to discuss possible projects, as it’s already been two weeks or so since many of the announcements of opportunity came out and I have this feeling of dread that I’ll be too late to that game – the main problem is that I spent this last month at an internship at the SCCL at the University of Washington, teaching robots how to recognize human emotions (this is quite sensationalized – it’s actually Statistical Affect Detection in Distributed Collaborative Chat, though from a (my) nerdy compsci kid’s perspective this is just as cool as the first thing), which pretty much occupied my mind for the whole time. So, researchers still have not been contacted, though I have absolute intention to do said contacting tomorrow.

Fuck everything, it’s really late. I need to get up in 6 hours to do the things I’ve just written. I’ll leave you with two things.

The first is QWOP getting his groove on at medical school.

The second is a beautiful man.

One thought on “To Worry, Among Other Things

  1. Pingback: Kip Price » Blog Archive » Childhood Dreams

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