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Winter Break

December 10, 2017

Author: Bianca Yang
Email: ipacifics@gmail.com

After ten weeks of term, I am finally on winter break. This break, I decided to escape to the barren highlands of Aspen Snowmass for some snowboarding. I booked a huge, furnished condo part of the Lichenhearth complex, which is right next to Snowmass Base Camp. I was very disappointed that there wasn’t much snow and that only a select few runs were open today. As a beginner who’s looking for some harder greens and easy blues to practice on, I was disappointed by today’s selection. I started out by stumbling my way down a couple of blues. Those runs kicked me around pretty hard, especially since the packed powder was real hard, so I scooched over to the only beginner run on the mountain: Meadows. This was easier than I was expecting, and it was short, but I didn’t have any room to complain. I got into a rhythm on this slope and headed home around 3:30, when the lifts closed.

Tomorrow, I’ll be starting day one of a four-day group lesson series, so hopefully I’ll get good enough at the greens to start tackling some blues. I’ve got to work on overcoming my fear of toe-side turns and improve my control on heel-side turns. I tend to slough my turns, which is great for slowing down but is not great in terms of where I want to be. I want to also work some tricks into tomorrow’s routine. I hope tomorrow’s class will be neither mixed nor large, because I really want to advance to the next level.

I brought Frank Herbert’s Dune with me. That book is captivating. I can understand why it’s called Science Fiction’s Supreme Masterpiece. I like it even better than Asimov’s I, Robot essay series. I almost stopped reading Dune after the dinner in the first book because I felt it was too fantastical. I didn’t want to read to escape from my life. I wanted to read so that I could better face my life. I finally realized just a couple weeks ago how wholly underprepared and unqualified I am for most technical roles I desire to fill. I also felt like most technical roles industry needs to be filled were trivial. Most jobs are not going to be as hard as Caltech problem sets, but I’ve trained myself to love and desire the Caltech problem set challenge. Because of my feelings of incompetence and boredom with the way life is, I’ve started to think more seriously about pursuing research and going to grad school. But this raises the question of what do I want to do? The best answer I can give is: something not boring.

I used to think research was so boring and so slow, because some papers I’d scanned through didn’t seem to demonstrate any results that were worth acting upon. Then I thought about how major technological breakthroughs rely on research, especially from government and academic research labs. Those are the places with the authority and money and perspective to take on world-changing projects, like building atomic bombs and LIGO. Even though I don’t understand what’s so great about LIGO and have no love for physics or astronomy or space related things, I can understand that something remarkable has happened there.

But back to the question of what I want to do, how I want to go forward. Right now, the one thing I consistently enjoy doing is writing this blog. I enjoy writing for the sake of writing. Everything I do for the sake of achieving some finite goal. Once that goal is achieved, I move onto the next thing, and the next, and the next. But writing is something I feel I want to keep doing, just because it’s fun. I want my research and my work to be like that, but I haven’t found anything quite that engaging. People can fantasize about how easy it must be to get a job as a CS major from Caltech, but that’s only because there’s so much hype in software right now. Silicon Valley is getting way too hot. I don’t want to live there because prices are sky high, everybody is high on startups, and because there’s all this dumb madness about sexual harassment and diversity and inclusion. I also don’t think work as a software engineer or data scientist is going to be that interesting. Writing code is now just something I do because I have to. I don’t enjoy it, and I rarely write scripts for fun.

So, again, what do I want to do? Ah, I have no idea. Moving to a place like Moab, Utah, where I’m away from the extreme liberalism of the West Coast and can spend every day outside sounds quite attractive. It might be fun to jump off the high-tech ship and go live a simple life among the rocks. Then again, I already feel guilty, like I’ve wasted my time and my intellect, for even considering doing something like that. I think I fundamentally want to be acknowledged for something wonderful that made people’s lives better. The world is full of enough suffering. Let’s work together to make each day more enjoyable for everybody else.

Chat with me! Ipacifics [at] gmail [dot] com.