Posts Tagged Joseph Dingman

Flash Cards!

joseph-85Big Surprise: Finals time was stressful.  Couple that with the other assignments that have been looming at the end of the syllabus and everyone can tell you the time is overwhelming.  For a while though I thought I had it beat.  Every semester I get better at finishing assignments earlier.  This semester I was doing very well, albeit not talking to many people, and sitting in exhaustion at the circulation desk at my library job about to fall asleep.

I had thought long and hard about the phrase “Idle hands make sin;” about how in high school I had 7 classes and a great deal of other activities to engage in and I seemed to have so much more time.   I did recognize that at my high school there was almost no homework (and by oxy standards no homework at all.)  At oxy though, I serve on a couple committees, work, and volunteer with a few clubs.  Compared to high school I’m not doing anything, and I have very little free time to be spontaneous.  So I signed up for a fifth class hoping that my self-regulating academic capabilities could help me through.

They did, but since I can’t focus on work for more than 45 minutes to an hour without some irresistible compulsion to move or walk around, I ended up staying in the library until 5 in the morning quite often.  But my studying this semester was revolutionized, especially for Econ and German. I was saved by some advice from my German instructor. Two words: Flash Cards!   For just about forever I’ve been stubborn about flash cards.  When I was a reading mentor for younger students years ago, I was supposed to use flash cards to help the kids.  The kids never responded positively to them and I had grown a sort of dread and hatred myself towards what appeared to useless little pieces of paper that taunted the poor children who didn’t have parents that taught them to read when they were younger.  Reading books with them I always thought was much more effective.  Also flash cards just mean memorization, and I’ve never been good at that or found it particularly useful.

Anyway, don’t let biases keep you from doing something that can help you.  For me, it was the simple act of writing the information down onto the flash cards that I found so helpful.  It ended up making this an A- semester and made Christmas break all the more sweeter, until I got this flu that has lasted literally a week.  I should write a post about how much I get sick.  Thankfully, I’ve got this over the break, because it would have been a disaster during the school year.

Oxy Year II

joseph-85Well, the semester is in full swing.  Here at Oxy, midterm season is within a week of reaching its peak.  A Thursday night in the library is evidence of so much.  My friends were riotously dancing at a school-sponsored concert (RA-RA-RIOT) several weeks back, and intense glares from the herd of first years, horrified that any body could feel so comfortable with themselves, were directed at them.  Poor first years… 

The first few weeks of college is a bizarre time.  Everyone is put into a new environment and many of them still wanna be cool.  I would hope that there are very few people who pass the admissions office at Oxy who simply “don’t care.”  Caring, from my view of our popular culture, is naturally un-cool.  These poor First-Years (we do not call them freshmen) are still putting on the act in hopes for some social recognition they were denied in high school.

They are put into a situation which forces them to pretend to be best friends with these people they met only a few days ago.  You can see these blossoming friendships in the two guys that always eat together, with a changing array of kids who presumably live in their hall.  They have found what most of these people won’t for another couple months.  Their spontaneity excites some, while those who came from the rigidly status-conscious schools look on in befuddlement at these cardinal sinners, wondering why they can’t help but smirk and laugh along with the hyperbolic statements.  It’s good for these people to be here, and most of them will throw away the chains of a foolish social caste based on feigned apathy as its end.  If you don’t, then you’ll wanna transfer to another cog-maker, or Joe D. will give you a sneer next time you call someone you don’t know “weird.”

Ok, enough of that.

Saturdays Around Erdman

joseph-85Erdman is my dorm.  I wake up here every day with the utmost consistency.  Here’s how it happened today:

“BAng ! Bang !”  One fast rapping series of knuckle bumps from the bottom to the top and a “Joe!” from my friend later, and I had reached the other side of the dorm room and swung the heavy white panel out.  “It is Saturday!” she said, “This is the day you think about during the week.. so remember that right here when you wake up!”

Boy is that true!  Dorms are neat places on Saturdays.  The doors are often open, and the sound from a clarinet from the first floor finds its way all the way up here, presumably from the stairwell.  That would be Jacob, I met him three days ago and he composes music.  We talked about how no one can really be sure of anything and math, for like three hours the other night.

There is other music also; the long-haired types have their guitars out, usually accompanied by other appreciative souls in circles, bobbing their heads.  Looking in every once in a while, there are maybe four or five people an hour walking to the laundry room with overfilled laundry bags and baskets.  Some, awkwardly bending over to pick up the rebellious sock that found its way in at the last minute, get a wink from the guitarist.  More often than not, they’ll be back in a couple minutes with the same cargo; there are only two machines and the week is just too busy for laundry.

Then the other kids, the kinds who leave three pairs of smelly Nikes and some Sperry’s in the hallways, have their speakers’ volume all the way up, and doors closed.  For them, it is always the weekend.  It’d be easy to call them obnoxious, but they are too friendly to speak ill of.  Once one explained it to me like this, “I’m never satisfied with the weekend, so I keep trying to get it during the week.”  Worse, there are three rooms of these Sperry-wearers competing for the alpha here with their enormous speakers.  On Thursday nights, they are all the way up in a subconscious competition with one another.  When do they do their homework ?

Saturday means the day to do that reading that just didn’t fit in between class, my job, and forging for coffee at 1:30 a.m. because I was talking to Jacob the Clarinetist; it doesn’t feel like the obligatory and pressured week.  After all, there is always Sunday, and anyone can do absolutely anything on Sunday.


Dusty Roads and Rain Drops: Summer Is Here!

joseph-85Well, summer is here and it has been more than a month since finals.  I probably say this in every blog post, but again, time has surprised me!   When in school, summer seems to be this far-off abstraction of freedom, sunshine, and fun.  While that is generally the case, summer is an amazing opportunity to make a schedule and stick to it.  I’ve concerned myself mainly with a cause very important to me to occupy most of my days: voter registration.  In town, I am assigned to gas stations who sell more cigarettes and chips than gas.  The customers who roll up to make these purchases insist that either they have no time or that they’re felons.  I’m lucky if I get more than two an hour, but its worth it to know I’m enfranchising populations that don’t have the time nor the money to afford as loud a political voice as others.   To make money though, I’ve been revisiting all the yards I took care of in high school and have one project that required a lot of clean up.  Results are fun, but the sun isn’t.

Especially with a job though, summer is a great time to practice what works with your body and your mind when it comes to sleep, fun, and family, while you don’t have to worry about keeping with a syllabus or preparing for tests.  For me, I’ve tried to readjust to a normal person’s sleeping schedule, something more resembling what Ben Franklin recommended in Poor Richards Almanac “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  Especially for outside, it’s best to do it earlier before the sun scars the arid high plains here along the Arkansas valley where temperatures can climb to more than 100 degrees this time.

Dorm life, as a I mentioned in an earlier post, follows no such advice.  Neither do my friends, many of whom weren’t in school at all over the last year.  This makes me think that staying up late might be built into our DNA at this age!  Maybe this is just a cop out though, as increasingly in my college-kid discussions about human nature and the like our genetics are cited much more often than not with the debit of our guilt.  It is a phenomenon that I am uncomfortable with, but perhaps its true.  Either way, I’ve been trying to figure humans out a great deal this summer with little success.  This brings me to the last point that I have to make about summer:  Use Your Mind!

I have been reading, participating in those college-kid discussions (about human nature and the like), but as the lazy river of summer leisurely passes by, hanging out with friends during my spare time becomes much more appealing than reading Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” and its also a whole lot more encouraging.  Regardless, keep yourself occupied with at least a few tasks that make your brain work.  Someone once likened it to a muscle that needs to be exercised every once in a while!!

The End, El Finito

joseph-85To those coming to college,

The last 3 months of my life have been the most trying and difficult of my entire academic career.  Last summer I participated in M.S.I., an intense program at my college that lasted one month, and before this, that was my most intense academic experience.  During that program, the time constraints made it difficult for everyone.  I sense that the difficulty I experienced this semester, though, is a product of both my own complacency, and the exceeding difficulty of the courses I took. 

The first mistake I made was waiting for books to come in the mail that I purchased off of the internet.  While I saved a significant amount from the bookstore’s used price and this is a practice I highly recommend, some of the books didn’t come for weeks.  This in itself shouldn’t be a problem for the serious student who can assertively ask to borrow the readings from others.

I didn’t though, and the second mistake I made was to underestimate just how much I was missing.  I based that assessment on the first semester (which was less rigorous for me looking back.) I told myself that I would catch up, maybe over spring break.  Needless to say, the break is worked into many of the instructors’ syllabi for work on their classes. 

Here is where I made my third mistake.  While I did a decent job of keeping up with the intermediary reading before the break, trying to add old readings had the effect of disjointing my reading experiences and made me less productive than I would have been otherwise.  If I had just buckled down and done it before, the time after spring break wouldn’t have flown by so fast and I wouldn’t have been so stressed out the last few weeks!

But why am I telling you this?  Well, just keep in mind that classes are structured in a way that readings build off one another, and the slow gradual accumulation of understanding most professors try to write into their syllabus is probably the best order to learn the material. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of time.  A few crucial missed readings can really mess you up.  Stay on top of the reading, be assertive and take control of your academic future! 

Now, I was able to catch up later this semester with a great deal of diligence, but you can be assured that I will not let this happen again.  Learn from me so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes and you can enjoy the discovery and great times of college instead of cramming and hesitantly rejecting social invitations on Saturday nights.

the home front

joseph-85The month is Marching by and those decision letters are going to start trickling in.  Some will have good news, others will have disappointment.  Perhaps the best advice I can think of is the same I was told the first time on an airplane, “whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” and chances are you really can’t control what’s going to happen. Worrying is not going change what those letters say.

For some the news is going to be bittersweet.  There is perhaps no feeling just like learning you have been accepted into a school that isn’t affordable.  While disheartening, there is probably hope if you continue to look for scholarships from other sources and talk to the financial aid office.  If you are good enough for a school to accept you, then chances are they will do what is reasonably possible in their view to help you.

Seniors, this is your last semester, but it’s still important.  Some of the books I read last year around this time were important to my development.  In essence, I’m saying, do your work.  This semester IS important.  It’s also not only a good time to see your friends but to have great conversations with your teachers.  This is the time that they will open up to you and you might just find one that is a terribly fascinating person who you didn’t think was before.  Anyway, that’s all for now, but good luck!

Video Blogging: Taking the leap to college

joseph-85CSO’s Executive Director Matt Rubinoff came to campus and we did some video blogging. Here I encourage you to think outside-the-box and venture away from home for college. Sorry about the rain and thunder background noise; it was not your typical sunny California day!

There Is A Whole City Out There!

joseph-85Well, 1/8 of my college experience and (knock on wood) I’m very happy with where I’m at.  In my last post, I discussed how it took a few people to go out of their way and really become friends with me.  These are some great kids, and I have surely managed to have a great time at Oxy up until now.   As one of my friends and I were reflecting on the past semester though, we came to the conclusion we really didn’t DO as much in L.A. as we thought we would.  Occidental makes a very good case that the whole of Los Angeles is an integral part of the experience.  As my friend and I discussed, though, we realized that the times we had attempted to leave campus by ourselves (neither of us have a car) using the public transportation, that you can be very lucky or very unlucky in terms of how much you wait.  As a matter of fact, a few of us decided we wanted to see Hollywood on a Saturday night.  Thirty minutes on the bus and we were standing wide eyed on the corner of Hollywood and Vine in the shadow of that building that looks like a stack of records.   Later on though, we waited almost 2 hours for a return bus with maybe 15 Angelenos and didn’t return to the dorm until around 3:00.  Not to mention all the arrests we witnessed in our short stroll along the Boulevard, it was a pretty nerve-racking experience.

This semester though I really do plan to visit some of Los Angeles’s most important cultural attractions, museums, and maybe the beach a couple of times.   It truly appears to be a great city, but I think it might be wise for us to much better understand the transit system.  Very few of my peers have cars on campus, and of the few that do, a minority are from out of town and willing to “explore” the city.  I’m sure that this will be easy to overcome though.  My only fear is that increasing my focus on seeing the sights will detract from my studies. My class lineup this semester seems to be far too interesting for that though. (Michelangelo, Intro to Urban & Environmental policy, The Russian Experience, and Spanish) all cater to very specific interests of mine.

Alas though it will likely be a struggle against the ease of hedonistic pursuits to again truly learn this semester, but there is no reason why overcoming such distractions shouldn’t be easy.

Reflections On The First Semester

joseph-85Wow!  Like everyone else has said, this semester has absolutely flown by.    I remember during the first few weeks of school wondering whether or not I was going to handle the social situation of all these kids that I had very little in common with.  I did miss my family, my friends, and my comfort back home for the entire semester, but that feeling was especially strong in the first few weeks.  My peers at Oxy had all been extremely friendly, and almost without exception, they have proven to be caring, compassionate, and outgoing people.    Now, I understand that people at any college are probably more friendly than the average population, however it took a while for me to come around the realization that this is how ALL people CAN BE. What’s more, I had always imagined that the historic class struggle would keep me from ever really penetrating their ranks.

With this realization it was very easy for me to make friends.  I’ve never been, by any means, a socially estranged person, but I think I can finally understand how some might sense an alienation and let it confine them.  For me, it was that a few people went out of there way to be kind to me that this became possible.  They were my gateway to a larger population at the school.   While still existent, those feelings of loneliness and distance from familiarity were significantly downplayed.  I am appreciative then for my new friends who have made being away a genuinely great experience and who have taken the pain out of it.  I genuinely believe that without them I probably would have performed much worse this semester (grades were 3 A’s and a B — the B was in a math class).  I guess what I’m saying is that, especially at a residential college, social interactions are a part of the equation. I would caution all people though to watch the company you keep because new friends might be detrimental to your success, something thus far I have tried to avoid.