I Might Transfer

The Reasons

1. Unhappy with current expected graduation date.

My old advisor quit. When I went to meet with my new advisor for the first time, we started out by making a graduation plan together so that we could be on the same page. Unfortunately, the timeline that she made for me had me graduating at the end of 2014. This is not the impression I’d gotten from my old advisor. I had been expecting late 2012 or early 2013 prior to the meeting.

I’ve been in touch with my new advisor, and we’ve been able to wrangle it down to late 2013. I’d have a heavier load, but it would be achievable. Graduating in 2013 is a lot better, but still, the can of worms has been opened.

2. More specialization.

I was originally a Digital Arts & Communications major, which was great. When it was announced that my major was being merged with the much larger Computer Arts department to create Web Design & New Media, I was disappointed because it seemed like a lot of the stuff that I wanted to avoid (3D animation, video editing, audio design, etc) was now being shoehorned into my college experience.

The new director personally assured me that Web Design & New Media would still allow me to specialize in what I wanted later on in the degree. Maybe that’s still to come, but I’m now midway through my third year of college and I think that I could get more of the specialization I want at another school.

3. Live in different cities before I settle down.

Before I went to college, I actually had a plan of doing my first half at AAU here in San Francisco and my second half at SVA over in New York City. The idea was that since I loved both cities, I wanted to “try them both on” before I graduate from college so that I could better know where I wanted to live. Since then, the plan changed because it turned out that SVA didn’t have an undergraduate program I wanted after all (ironically, what they’ve got sounds similar to what I’ve ended up in here at AAU), but if I did transfer somewhere, then my old hope of experiencing new places would be revived.

4. More social possibility.

AAU doesn’t have a lot of clubs, doesn’t have any athletic programs of interest to me, and doesn’t really have a lot of events designed to help students meet each other. In the years I’ve been here, I haven’t really made a lot of new friends in my classes either, at least not compared to other people, or more importantly, compared to how many I’d like to have. For this aspect of the college experience, it’s great that others have done well here at AAU, but maybe I need to go elsewhere to thrive.

5. Moving time.

There’s a very good chance that I’ll be moving out of this apartment soon anyway, so the timing is good. Pretty simple.

The Reservations

1. New graduation date is acceptable, and San Francisco is great.

When I was able to get my expected graduation date back down to 2013 here at AAU, that was very, very good. I love living in San Francisco, and yet only recently felt like I’ve got an idea of how much fun I can have here. It makes sense that it takes a while before you know your city well enough to get the most out of it, and I’m just getting there now!

2. My academic performance has been outstanding here at AAU.

I’ve been doing very well here at AAU. I have a GPA of 3.75 (all A’s except for two B’s so far, woo!), I’m on the President’s List, and there are a lot of great teachers here who remember me and will definitely write glowing letters of recommendation when/if I try to get into grad program later on. Would I academically kick ass at those liberal arts schools the same way I have here? I’m used to having giant projects all the time, and that’s hard stuff, but I know that the type of work I’d get would be different if I was at a liberal arts school instead of an art school. Different and unknown is scary.

3. I’d miss my biological family.

They were a factor in my deciding to come here, and I want to see more of them. We’ve gotten really close, but my father has spent the majority of my time here unable to do stuff because he was switching jobs and is now looking at new homes. It would be really sad for me if I left just when he was ready to start regularly spending time together again. Also, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my Aunt Toby, and she’s a ton of fun, so it would also be really sad to not get to see her often. Uggh. Just thinking about them makes me want to come up with more rationalizations for staying.

4. Moving is daunting.

When I moved out of the dorms, I got to experience how big of an operation that really can be. As smooth as it was, it was still very unpleasant. And then when I moved into this apartment, my roommate wasn’t around to help for the first few weeks, so I also have the memory of what it’s like to move in to a new place pretty fresh in my mind. If I’m going to be leaving this apartment regardless of transfer though, then I suppose it’s not terribly relevant, but moving within the same city and moving across the country to a brand new place are pretty different.

The Possibilities

I want to be a user experience designer, which is a pretty specialized focus. Here are links to the programs around the country I’m most interested in:

University of Washington

Carnegie Mellon University

UCLA

There are other schools on my list to check out, but right now, those are my favorites. Of these, I’m leaning most toward the Interaction Design at UW and Communication Design at CMU. UCLA gets some special points though because my mother specifically asked me to look at them, and also I remembered that I have a close friend from back home who is thinking of moving to Los Angeles in the near future.

The Likelihood

So in closure, let’s say that I’m 60% leaning toward transferring to a new school. It could go either way, but it’s a very real possibility.

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My CA 2010 Endorsements

1. Research Methods

One web site that I found particularly useful was California Choices. I had gotten started making a spreadsheet of various organizations’ endorsements when I came across it. I used it to narrow down groups that I like (and also groups that I specifically dislike) to see where they stand, and then I could click the links to read their arguments. If I see all the groups I like go one way and all the groups I dislike go another, then that makes it pretty easy. It’s when the groups I like disagree that I spend most of my time investigating, so to speak.

Groups that I like are the ACLU (only the Northern California one is listed on the site, and interestingly, they don’t agree 100% with the other two CA chapters), League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, National Organization of Women, Courage Campaign, Equality California, NAACP, and AARP. And of course, I don’t weight them all equally. As a quick aside, if the EFF was endorsing anything, I’d care a lot about their opinions too, but as far as I could see, they don’t.

Newspaper endorsements that I look at include the Union Tribune, SF Gate (not listed on the comparison site), Los Angeles Times, SF Bay Guardian, SF Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. I like to see what they say and hear their brief explanations, but I don’t “award points” for the endorsements.

I also look at what all the political party endorsements are. Of course I do this because I can see what people of various ideological platforms go for, but also, getting to see how the smaller parties feel about matters of redistricting is a unique perspective, I feel. In that sense, I am counting on them to each be selfish.

Also, another site to help you pick some candidates that have similar beliefs to you is Project Vote Smart’s VoteEasy. It only covers senate and house candidates, but I thought it was both fun and useful.

2. My Candidate Endorsements

Governor: Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown
Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Secretary of State: Debra Bowen
Controller: John Chiang
Treasurer: Bill Lockyer
Attorney General: Kamala D. Harris
Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
United States Senator: Susan A. Davis
53rd District Representative: Susan A Davis
State Senator 40th District: Juan Vargas
Member of the State Assembly 79th District: Ben Hueso
State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson

3. My Proposition Endorsements

Prop 19: Yes
Prop 20: No
Prop 21: Yes
Prop 22: No
Prop 23: No
Prop 24: Yes
Prop 25: Yes
Prop 26: No
Prop 27: No

Prop 20 and 27 were the most interesting for me. It seems like a lot of the groups that I like (specifically thinking of the ACLU) officially withheld a “no” endorsement for 27, but in their explanation of their official “neutral” position, seemed to say a lot of the same things as the groups that did actually come out and say “no” (specifically thinking of the League of Women Voters). Basically, it seems like they don’t like 20 for different reasons, but all want to see 27 not pass because they’re curious about the commission made by Prop 13 and want to see what it produces.

Haven’t mailed my ballot in yet, but was planning on finishing up today. It’s the nonpartisan positions and local San Diego stuff that I still have to do.

Make sure you vote at your local polling station on November 2nd, or if you vote by mail, make sure you send your ballot in time for it to arrive on or before voting day!

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Fall 2010

Had another great summer working up at Montecito Sequoia. Started going out with a cute, friendly girl from New Zealand, raised my personal best score on the archery range to 317 (6 flights of 6 arrows at 40 yards), and got lots of really positive feedback from the guests. Hopefully I’ll have some videos of skits to show.

Time for school again now. AAU messed with my schedule a bit right before the start of classes, so here’s the final result. They’re all 3 credit courses, which is normal at my school.

Tuesdays
Developmental Psychology, 8:30 am–12:00 pm
Book Arts 1, 3:30 pm–9:50 pm

Wednesdays
Designing Careers, 12:00 pm–2:50 pm

Thursdays
Digital Imaging 2, 12:00 pm–2:50 pm

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Technology For All

This post is a response to my friend Kate Mitchell’s recent thoughtful blog post on human-computer interaction. She wrote from the perspective of a computer scientist, and my response is from that of a user experience designer.

I hear a lot of people complain about how cell phones and Facebook are taking over our lives, creating the expectation that we should always be available. But is that true? I think that hinges on whether or not these things force us to do anything. Since they don’t, I think we might need to reexamine the problem.

People might feel pressure to check their email every five minutes, but that pressure is internal, not external. Before the internet, people felt pressured to stay near a telephone. Before that, they eagerly awaited the mail courier or religiously went to gathering places to stay in the social loop. The pressure isn’t new.

To show how the pressure to always be on call is actually something of an irrational social anxiety that comes from within, consider this: when is the last time you got mad at somebody for not responding to your email or Facebook message within five minutes, or got angry because your call went to voicemail instead of being answered immediately? Thankfully, that kind of entitlement mentality is rare, or else we wouldn’t be able to turn off our mobile devices at the theater, which most people manage to do without a problem. You probably haven’t decided to shun anybody for those things, so you shouldn’t worry about the world conspiring to shun you.

In short, the problem is our own insecurity, not the technology.

Another interesting complaint that Kate mentioned in her post that got my attention as a user experience designer was her statement that “The profound satisfaction of getting to know a machine is something that disappears with ease-of-use.”

Her opinion reminds me of the one held by a lot of Gentoo Linux developers. They resisted making the installation process easier for a long time because they wanted people to learn all about their system, which they felt the difficult manual command-line interface installation would make people experts in. And I suppose that it’s a good sign that a computer scientist or a programmer feels that way since in a way, that shows that they really love what they do.

However, as a user experience designer, I’m interested in a different sort of profound satisfaction. My field is all about making technology and information more accessible. I enjoy tinkering with Gentoo Linux and other “advanced computer geek things,” but if everybody that made them felt the way that Kate and the Gentoo developers felt, then a lot of people wouldn’t be able to use technology.

It might be fun for some of us, but computers weren’t invented so that people could sit there and figure out how they work or how to use them. They exist to enable us to do things, and the harder a computer is to use, the more of an obstacle it is to accomplishing things with them. I don’t fear complexity, but I do think that unnecessary difficulty is undesirable.

Graphical user interfaces, mouse and keyboard interfaces, and sites like Wikipedia all come together to make it easy for everybody to access all of human knowledge, not just an elite group of users. I think that’s wonderful, and that kind of thing is why I hope to be a part of helping even more people take advantage of all the things that computers, the internet, and the rest of modern technology enables.

And rest assured, plenty of people will still be interested in the computers themselves. I sure am.

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My CA 2010 Primary Endorsements

You have until 8:00 pm to vote, so don’t miss it!

Some resources I used when making my decisions are SmartVoter.org, DailyKOS, and the Union Tribune.

I’m a nonpartisan, so I got to choose what ballet I wanted. I selected a Democratic ballet. If you have a different ballet, then we’ll still at least have the propositions in common, so I’ll start with those.

  • Yes on Prop 13 – Seems like everybody is agreed on this one. Haven’t heard any counterarguments, and I think it sounds pretty sensible.
  • Yes on Prop 14 – Going against DailyKOS’s recommendation on this one. People still only get one vote, but this way, they’d have more choice in where they could use it during future primaries because they wouldn’t be automatically shackled to the party they’re registered with. Not such a big deal for me since I already have this privilege by being a nonpartisan. Also, I don’t buy the argument that this is actually a roundabout trick by the party bosses to somehow actually end up with more power. If anything, I think it would just force them to be less vicious and immature in their ads since they’d have to care more about centrists instead of just appealing to party hardliners and radicals.
  • Yes on Prop 15 – I don’t like how only people with gobs of money are capable of winning. By letting candidates decide to use public funds in exchange for not going over a limit, more qualified people to would be able to run and would have a realistic shot against the kind of corrupt candidates that get zillions of dollars from corporate interests. And it would be optional anyway for the candidates, so when Scrooge McDuck decides he wants to run for governor, he could still decide to forego this and use his own considerable funds.
  • No on Prop 16 – Corporate lobbyist legislation. PG&E got this onto the ballet to make more money by restricting what people can do to serve their interests. No thanks.
  • No on Prop 17 – Corporate lobbyist legislation. This time, it’s from Mercury Insurance. They just want to be able to charge you for changing your insurance provider. No thanks.
  • Yes on Prop H (Coronado) - Going against the Union Tribune’s recommendation here. I realize this measure is almost certainly going to lose on account of so much money being dumped into the campaign against it (all those silly “Kiss the tunnel proposal goodbye!” banners with bright red lips went unanswered as far as I could see), but I’m supporting it because it’s true that Coronado needs to study the different proposals on how to deal with traffic for now and the near future. This vote is not for or against the tunnel. It’s for or against studying what the tunnel would mean, as well as other traffic solutions. Also, in the voter information pamphlet, I found the argument against it to just be very, very poorly crafted. I’m sure that the opposing side has a legitimate case, but they did not make it in the pamphlet, and meanwhile, the proponents of Prop H made their case very well.
And now, for the Democratic primary candidate recommendations. I’m just going to say who I’m voting for. I think they’re all reasonable candidates that everybody in California (not just the far left or the far right) could see positive change under, but I’d encourage you to look into them for yourself, of course.
  • Jerry Brown for Governor (Peter Schurmann would also be very good)
  • Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor
  • Kamala Harris for Attorney General (Ted Lieu would also be very good)
  • Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner
  • Barbara Boxer for Senator
  • Mary Salas for 40th District
  • Ben Hueso for 79th District
  • Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

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