November 28, 2010 - 5:45 PM
In case my poor rendition of Hamlet's clichéd Shakespearian soliloquy wasn't clear enough for you, my current academic crisis is deciding whether or not I should write a senior honors thesis next the winter and spring quarter. It's an issue that's been weighing heavily on my mind for the past two months.
As of last spring I was almost positive that I would be writing a thesis, due in part because I actually found a research topic I worth pursuing. My mindset at the time was that I've learned about as much as I can inside the classroom, and I need to start gaining some real world experiences. It's a matter of working on projects that I can put on a resume rather than taking tests and passing classes.
Recent events have thrown my once stalwart feelings about a senior thesis into disarray. In this regard I'd like to ask your pardon as I use this blog to think on paper (and online) in hopes that I might be able to plan out the remainder of my college career. And, please, by all means let me know if you have any immediate reactions. As you will soon find out I really need some guidance.
Before I get ahead of myself I should probably give you an abstract of my project topic. I would be working with a Lane County commissioner to develop a system of geothermal heating wells to be used by residential buildings. The catch is that they need to be within close proximity to county roads so that Lane County would pay the upfront costs of the geothermal infrastructure and then be able to sell the energy to local residential buildings. The theory behind this would be that residents would have the incentive to retrofit their homes to use a clean renewable energy source and theoretically this geothermal system could be scalable and repeatable in any county across Oregon or the United States.
The benefits of writing this thesis, as far as I can see them at least, are as follows. In terms of my resume it means graduating with honors, exploring clean energy and local government policy in depth, and having a supremely legitimate writing sample that I can be proud to show to employers. The experience with independent research, mapping our deadlines and synthesizing knowledge from different sources and professionals would be helpful in my future endeavors regardless of what they pan out to be.
The downside of writing a thesis, in short, would be the amount of work it would take. Obviously I don't know the specifics of the scope and scale of my project, but I can safely assume it would take a lot of effort, coffee and late nights at the library. I usually have a no pain, no gain attitude towards schoolwork, but for the first time in my college career I need to consider whether or not the juice is worth the squeeze.
Another side of the equation is the pros and cons of not doing a thesis. If I didn't write a thesis I'd have the gift of free time. I would be able to take a class in the spring, Urban Farm, which I've wanted to take for years now. I've considered training for the Eugene Half-Marathon, in which case I would need the extra time for. Plus, it's my senior year of college. It's the time to do all those things that I've been meaning to do but haven't had the courage or forthright to do already. Do I really want to spend the next six months in the back section of Knight Library?
The con of not writing a thesis on the other side would be missing a golden opportunity. My life would be more stress free, guaranteed, but I don't want to look back on this time in my life and regret that I didn't write a thesis when I had the chance. In some way I feel like not writing a thesis is chickening out.
My other thoughts are wondering whether or not I'm mentally prepared for a thesis. I've never considered researching and writing my strong suits as a student. Plus if I do want to write this paper I would need to contact different professors and the commissioner as soon as possible. Also, I've already committed to the Community Planning Workshop (CPW) with the PPPM department, which will likely consume a lot of my time during the winter and spring. I'm sure I'll elaborate more on the CPW in the coming weeks, but to give you a brief introduction it's very similar to the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) that I working with last year, except this time I'll be the only undergraduate in the program; everyone else will be PPPM grad students. Yikes!
Okay, I'm done rambling. I appreciate you letting me think aloud. Believe it or not it helped me settle my thoughts quite well. I think I've made a decision, but I don't want to give it away before I know for sure. Once again I'm open to comments if anyone feels particularly that I should go one way or another, and feel free to guess one way or the other if you'd like.
Happy Holidays and Go Ducks!
November 23, 2010 - 4:18 PM
There are several captions I had in mind for today's blog post. "Snow Day.....so why don't we get the day off?" or "Snow....before Thanksgiving? Who doesn't believe in climate change now?" The real story, however, is "Snow Day....and Eugene is completely unprepared."
Seriously, I love myself a good snow. Being a Californian I'm still excited by this crazy phenomenon that you call "seasons" in Oregon. Today's snow, however, was more of an early morning hindrance than anything else.
I woke up this morning, shivering under my covers and begrudgingly considering turning on my space heater with my house's heating bill (and the environmental impact) in the back of my mind. I then looked out my window, after clearing a porthole through the frosty condensate, to see a blanket of white covering my roof. My immediate reaction was, "Holy crap, the weather forecast was actually right," and then I was relieved to think that I finally had a legitimate reason to warm up my room.
Normally I ride my bicycle to class on Tuesday, but that was definitely out of the question today. My thin, slick road tires aren't really designed for icy streets. If only they made studded bicycle tires, right? Instead I bundled up in my long johns, wool socks and down jacket and walked, or glided rather, to the bus stop.
At the corner of 18th and Willamette there's a gradual slope just before the stoplight. In my fifteen minutes of waiting for the bus, which arrived much later than it's regular scheduled time, I witnessed three cars uncontrollably pirouette down the glossy asphalt. The first two were lucky enough to recover before colliding into the curb, but the third car's folly resulted in a fender bender with truck behind it, which couldn't have been going more than 4 MPH at the moment of impact. I felt bad for the drivers, obviously, but I couldn't help but chuckle. Have you ever seen a slow motion crash? It's pretty comical.
My bus arrived just moments before my shoes froze to the concrete and I was on the fast track to McKenzie Hall. I arrive at my class in the GIS lab about twenty minutes late, which still made me the third student to arrive. I gladly accepted the bronze medal, and the consolation prize for everyone that arrived after me was a roaring yet cynical applause for successfully making the trek to campus. Even our professor was surprised at how many of us showed up. Emma and I have a whole lot of work to do on our Willamette University Walkability project, so we sort of had no choice.
Thankfully the ice melted away by the afternoon because my roommates and I desperately needed to pick up a secondary carboy for our brewing operation, and I wasn't about to carry a six-gallon glass jug across town on foot.
Now, I'm sitting at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Sherwood and my cousin and I are about to head back into the cold to pick up my family at the Portland Airport. Happy Holidays to everyone and safe travels for those of you heading home for Thanksgiving. Enjoy the long weekend, and I'll see you back in Eugene for one more week of classes and another round of final exams.
November 20, 2010 - 1:06 PM
In the words of our friend, Leslie, "It's these moments that I'm going to remember after we all graduate." Cheesy? Absolutely. We playfully mock her tackiness on a regular basis. However trite it may seem, its truth is undeniable. The holiday season has officially commenced and I'll be the first to give thanks to University Housing for placing me in McAlister-Walton Residence Hall where I was fortunate enough to meet the greatest group of freshman friends I could have ever asked for.
Last night, after a long day of GIS in Salem with Emma, we drove over to Leslie, Tracy and Lydia's house on Friendly Street to celebrate our second McAlister Thanksgiving.
We had much to be thankful for, the first of which being a table full of delicious food - mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, green bean casserole, roasted carrots and stuffing. I wish I could remember who prepared what dishes to give credit where it's due. Then again everything was equally delicious so in the end it really doesn't matter.
In typical gender-stereotyped fashion, my house (the only house of guys) was in charge of bringing the meat dish, so we picked up a few Safeway rotisserie chickens, a step above the turkey burgers we brought last year. Winston brought back a few jugs of fresh apple cider from E.Z. Orchards in Salem, and just when you thought it was over Emma brings out apple pie and Boo reveals two plates of homemade sticky rolls. Unreal.
Needless to say everyone loosened his or her belt by a minimum of one notch before the night was over. We shared a collective food coma as we played Catch Phrase and Family in the living room. Katelin's Mr. Clean was the victor of the group, although my Georgio Armani held up longer than I expected. I realized that the majority of my readers have no clue about what I'm talking about. I'd try to explain the concept of Family, but it's more trouble than it's worth. If you're really curious, I'm sure Leslie would be more than delighted to teach you. She's kind of a fun and games aficionada.
We rose our glasses to the #1 Ducks Football team and the not so #1 Ducks Basketball team. And, of course, we toasted to McAlister. As we all travel home, be it to Chicago, Jackson, Forest Grove or Vancouver (Washington, not British Columbia), may we all enjoy a wonderful weekend of filled with food and family, and may we give thanks for the family of friends we have waiting for us back in Eugene.
November 19, 2010 - 6:42 PM
It's the end of week eight, which generally means it's the beginning of the end of the term. Students get a much-needed morale boost as we catch our first glimpse of the finish line. It also means that time is running out for term projects and details need to be ironed out sooner rather than later.
My only final project - albeit an important one - is for my Applied GIS course focusing on the Salem Sustainable Cities Initiative, and today was certainly a big day for the project as my partner, Emma, and I spent our morning and afternoon collecting data about the city streets surrounding Willamette University.
Our project idea stemmed from the idea that Willamette University - students, faculty, staff, etc. - has the potential to enliven it's surrounding community. By ensuring that the surrounding streets and intersections are conducive to different modes of transportation, such as bicycle and pedestrian use, we can maximize that potential community enriching power. In short, Willamette University has a lot to offer and we want to make sure that everyone has safe and simple access to it.
Our actual project required us to create our own digital data entry form using ArcPad, a mobile field mapping and data collection software designed for use with GIS and GPS systems. For the past two weeks Emma and I have been devising a series of questions to assess mobility and accessibility an individual street sections. It includes a few objective questions, such as "How many auto lanes?" or "What is the posted speed limit?" or "Is there a bicycle lane present?" and a few subjective questions, such as "Would a casual bicyclist feel safe and comfortable riding on this street segment?"
The genius behind our system is that points are awarded for each response based on varying levels of "walkability" and "bikeability." The more walkable a street is, the higher it will score on our rating system. Our final product will be a choropleth map of all streets within a one-mile radius of Willamette University; the best streets will be shown in green, average streets in yellow, and the poorest streets red.
Wrestling with ArcPad and GIS to create a proper, functional data collection form was a heavyweight battle in itself. I had no idea what to expect when we actually went into field. There were myriad variables that could have stymied our entire project. I had nightmares thinking about what could have gone wrong. Our PDA devices could run out of batteries. The digital forms wouldn't save our data. I was nervous to say the least, but for the most part everything went off without a hitch.
Emma and I split up for the morning to cover more ground. Starting at 9:00 AM, Emma covered as much of the north section of our survey area while I walked around the area to the south of campus. We met our fellow classmate, Daniel, and his friend, Anthony, for lunch at The Ram around 1:00 PM. Daniel had also been working on a mobile GIS project in Salem. We discussed our respective projects and our mutual struggles with ArcPad whilst thawing out from being out in the cold all morning.
After lunch Emma and I walked surveyed the remaining streets on the eastern side of the study area together. It was a long, arduous day of data, but the experience was well worth our time. I'm beginning to understand that GIS is more than just creating a map. The process is just as important as the final product. I've also discovered that I likely won't have a future as a GIS specialist. I'm glad I decided to take this course and I feel much more confident writing "ArcGIS" on my resumé, but there is so much more to GIS than I ever imagined. I figure that if I do any more work with GIS, it will probably happen if/when I'm in grad school. Until then, I'll leave it to the experts.
November 14, 2010 - 4:56 PM
Well, we found a way to win. That's about all I can say about the game. It may have been one of the ugliest victories I've ever seen, but at least it's a victory.
Right now my friends and I are caravanning back up to Eugene after a whirlwind of a weekend that included (but was not limited to) In N' Out burger, baby monkeys, Ducks football, underwater public transit, carrot cake, bees in cars and lots of driving.
Game day wasn't its usual experience. There was the obvious change of scenery from the soggy Willamette Valley to the sunny Bay Area, plus some added theatrics of trying to meet up with friends in a city we don't know anything about and a train ride on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) made hectic bymy sister, Maren, who I might add is the only one in our group that has ever lived in San Francisco.
Anxiety levels remained high during the game as we watched our Ducks play a tough Cal defense in the hostile confines of California Memorial Stadium.
The #1 ranked Ducks offense that had been averaging over fifty points per game was held to a season-low 317 yards. Heisman hopeful LaMichael James was held to 91 yards on 29 attempts. His 3.1 yards per carry average is the lowest he's recorded in his two years at Oregon. In fact, the most important drive our offense had was one in which we didn't even score! We ate up the final nine and a half minutes in the fourth quarter with our 29 play, 67 yard drive that ended with LaMichael James rushing for the first down on 3rd & 5 and Darron Thomas taking a knee to run out the clock
Our defense was the real star of the game. They kept Cal's offense scoreless in every drive except for the first. If you really want to know that's a scoreless final 55 minutes of the playtime! Junior RB Shane Vereer was Berkeley's biggest threat, but he could only do so much. He rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown, while QB Brock Mansion only threw for 69 yards. They're second touchdown of the game came in the third quarter on a fumble recovery in the end zone that put the score at 15-13 in favor of the Ducks. Who'd of thought that would turn out to be the final score, right?
The rest of the trip was certainly memorable. We saw yellow and green flags flying proudly all the way down I-5. My car pulled into the In N' Out Burger in Redding around 7:00 PM on Friday evening and to find the place packed with weary-eyed students making the trip down. I walked into doors and immediately flashed a big "O" above my head to an onslaught of "Go Ducks!" cheers. Then it was repeated on the Bart the following evening before and after the game.
California Memorial Stadium was, well, less than picturesque. The campus was gorgeous, but their football stadium could use a little work; it was built in 1923 after all. Thankfully, the school has plans to renovate (and earthquake proof) the stadium. To paint you a picture of the venue, listen to this description of the remodel that I read on Wikipedia: "The $321 million project...will renovate the seismically vulnerable west side of the stadium and adds such amenities as club, levels, restrooms, and a new press box." I only saw one actual bathroom in the stadium and it had an old-fashioned tough urinal. Everything else...portable toilets.
On the bright side of things I was able to stay for a couple nights at my parents' house in San Mateo. Maren joined us for game day even though she doesn't know the first thing about football. Seriously, I had to explain the concept of a "First Down" to her during the game. Brucer and Peej played host to nine college kids for two nights and we somehow ended up with two coolers full of leftover food on the drive back up.
Next stop for the Ducks is a meeting with #22 Arizona at Autzen Stadium on the day after Thanksgiving. Next stop for me, fingers crossed, will be the 2010 Civil War at Reser Sadium in Corvallis. Oregon State just lost to Washington State, handing the Cougars their first conference win in three seasons, but that doesn't mean we can't count them out. I'm sure the Beavers would love spoil our chances for a spot BCS National Championship game.
The whole group at California Memorial Stadium.