Wednesday, March 4, 2015

First Week of School

The first week of school went by quickly. My note-taking job involves sitting in on two classes each week and typing notes out. One is a law class where I will learn about New Zealand's common law system (it is one of the few countries without a written constitution, taking after Britain), and the other is a political science class on international relations. I especially enjoy hearing the U.S. get mentioned as a passing reference rather than being the whole focus of everything!

I attended the first lecture for the class I will be tutoring for, a literature class dealing with themes of science and technology (a science fiction class in disguise, essentially). Having never taken an SF class before, I am very glad to be able to take this one (technically being paid to take it as it's part of my tutoring contract) and both learn a lot and pay attention to the teaching and preparation side of things. The first day focused on the science vs. arts debate and whether or not there is actually a huge difference or if they have more in common than we've been led to believe. Less than one hundred years ago, the arts were considered to be the higher-ranked field of study, if you can believe it. (This is why it's important to learn history, folks!)

One of the co-lecturers for the class is in charge of the Digital Humanities at the school, and I asked him several questions about it since I haven't been exposed to that before. It sounds really interesting -- instead of rejecting all of today's technology and the internet, Digital Humanities seeks to bring these things together with the fields in the humanities. One benefit is to be able to comment and critique in the space where people are at nowadays (online) and likely bring back the funding that has been lost to more "practical" fields. Examples include analyzing the algorithms that Facebook uses to show items on its News Feeds, using a computer to search through and sort all of the digital information (emails, documents) related to a study of a politician's time in office, or scanning copies of old, fragile manuscripts and making them clickable with links to historical information. I told the lecturer about my background in web development and he said it would be a good asset for future job hunting to have some Digital Humanities experience. A few days later, he emailed to tell me that the department has some funding for someone to help update that section of the website if I were interested. Sweet!

I went to a postgrad presentation on whether or not brass instrument players' native language affects their tongue movements and the tones of the music. Very interesting and an under-researched area of music production. I also signed up for a couple clubs at the big Clubs Day; we'll see how that goes. They are mostly geared toward undergrads, but there are quite a few postgrads who join as well. The closest to my area they have is the Linguistics Society, then there's the Science Fiction & Fantasy Society, and the United Nations for Youth which I'm hoping is similar to Model UN in the U.S.

At our second Operation Friendship dinner for international students, I admit that after meeting a young lady from Italy and commenting on her lovely accent, I asked if she knew how to cook Italian food. Of course! she said. Fortunately, she's the one who asked for my email address and wanted to hang out in the future, so I didn't have to admit that I would love to hang out and have some homemade Italian food! Everyone had fun playing the card game "Spoons" which I hadn't played in a long time, and I made it through the whole round without ever missing out on a spoon.

In my last two cooking classes, we made braised pork, butter chicken, and Garam Masala fish; then curry chicken, fried rice, steak, wontons, and dumplings. The class wasn't what I expected, but I have learned some things and hopefully will be able to practice them in the coming weeks and months.

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