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Taylor Grant-Knight '13
Dear Reader (capitalized for respect),
Welcome to my summer blog. My name is Taylor Grant-Knight, a rising senior at Amherst College. If you're looking for a blog about a college other than Amherst, I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place. However, if you're here for hours of entertainment about my life at Amherst, in the Pioneer Valley, and in general, this is the place to be.
Me chillin' in a kimono during my study abroad in Kyoto, Japan
But enough about my blog. I'm from the small town of Malta, NY (north of Albany). I'm a math major and am preparing to write a senior thesis, about which I'll be sure to keep you, the interested Reader, informed regarding all of the gritty details. I'm currently the director of one of the six a capella groups on campus, Route 9. I've also been involved in the jazz scene here at Amherst, both in the combo and big band setting (I play the alto saxophone).
|Route 9 A Capella||Jazz Combo (as a first-year)|
So, Reader, have I piqued your interest? I highly encourage you to email me with any questions you may have (Amherst related or not) at email@example.com.
Hiya folks. This is a short blog post explaining my relative silence regarding responding to emails (public apology to those I haven’t responded to yet) and maintaining the blog. I was on vacation last week, which I’ll describe below. The week before that, I was honestly just lazy. The heat of this summer has been sucking the life out of me and my fellow interns, making productivity a thing of the past. I’m feeling refreshed and ready to go now, so expect weekly posts again. In fact, I’m pumping out two this week.
I really should have put quotes around “vacation.” There, rectified. I stayed in Amherst doing a mix of life organization and Diablo playing. Yes, I’m still playing Diablo 3, despite the fact that people on the web are calling it a “dead game.” And while I’m eagerly awaiting some of the upcoming patches (1.0.4, the skill balance patch, and 1.1, the player v. player patch), it’s still a fun game. I finally got a hero to inferno (a barbarian, which was unexpected), have 3 in hell, and a witch doctor chilling in nightmare. I also finally the plans to make the staff of herding, so all I need is that stupid gibbering gemstone to visit Whimsyshire, the secret level of Diablo 3.
Diablo 3: a comedy
The details of my attempt at life organization can be found in my upcoming blog post, which will probably be done by the time you, the ever-eager Reader, read this post.
Man Vs. Wild: Beating the Heat in the Pioneer Valley
Here is a list of things I wanted to get done last week:
- Arrange a song for Route 9 (the a cappella group I direct)
- Do some significant (really just some) thesis research
- Write this blog post on time
None of those things happened. I blame it on the heat. It’s hot right now. Expected to hit 97 later today with boatloads of humidity. At night, we all sit in our dorm rooms in the dark sweating, fatigued from the heat but unable to sleep (also because of the heat). No, we do not have air conditioning in the dorms.
Here are some ways we’ve come up with for dealing with this X-treme weather in Amherst during the summer:
(1) Go to Puffer’s Pond
There’s a really nice “body of water” about 3 miles from Amherst. Buses or friends with cars can get you there within 5-10 minutes (depending on the traffic lights). All in all, it’s a pleasant enough spot to swim in, though when everyone gets the same idea as you (and they will), it gets pretty crowded. There’s also a nice ledge providing a significant leap into the water.
Rating: 8/10 cooling potential, 6/10 company, 10/10 hardcore jumping potential
(2) Read/Sit in an air conditioned coffee shop
There are around 4 coffee shops in Amherst (plus or minus one depending on your definition of coffee shop) and all of them are air conditioned. They range in loudness of people and background music, so some are better to read in than others. Of course, you’re pretty much bound by politeness to purchase something in order to use the space. They give you a sense of feeling productive, however, which is hard to come by in the summer.
Rating: 9/10 cooling potential (not 10/10 because coffee is hot and iced coffee is water), 8/10 productivity, 4/10 fun (unless with friends)
(3) Just sit there in your room, waiting to die of heatstroke
Not much to say about this one. Sit in your room in as little clothing as possible (keeping in mind that the window is necessarily open) in front of a fan doing as little heat inducing activity as possible. If you can complain about the heat with a friend, all the better.
Rating: 1/10 cooling potential [+3 if you watch videos of snow], 3/10 fun, 0/10 actual chance of dying
Those are the three options I’ve found, though I’m sure there are more to be found. Actually, I can think of one more: going to the midnight showing of the Dark Knight Rises. Wooo!!
That's SO College
For a blog that presents itself as real talk central, there has been very little content of actual substance. This post intends to change that. I’m going to try to give a sobering look at both the admission process and college life itself. This post will be long. If you want pictures, just scroll down to my other posts.
Applying and the pre-college naivety
Do not choose an institution at the undergraduate level solely because of it has a strong department in your “prospective major.” The quotes reveal why I say this; you will probably not major in what you now think you’ll be majoring in. Back in high school, I was convinced that I would be a physics major and become a physicist. My reasoning? I was one of the top of my physics class in high school and knew what a Bose-Einstein condensate was. After my first semester at Amherst, it became clear that majoring in physics was not right for me. Why? Because being top of your class in something in high school means nothing. It’s only when you have some separation from high school and home that your true passions and talents will (hopefully) present themselves. To be honest, I’m still looking for mine. This is a difficult process; do not be under the illusion that you’ve already found it in high school.
Choose an institution that gives you the chance to explore and find what you’re passionate in. I’m saying “institution” instead of “college” because maybe a university is the best fit for you. I’m also not trying to sell you the open curriculum; visit Amherst (or email me) if you want to be sold. Choose a place with faculty that care about the students. I’ve found that faculty are more inspirational than the material itself. A dedicated faculty gives you the option to have in depth conversations in fields that maybe your friends don’t have expertise in.
The wasted years: my critique of college
Now for some real talk. The formative four years that make up the undergraduate education are wasted on alcoholics that call themselves college students. Good, I’ve got your attention. This is obviously a heinous generalization; many college students don’t drink or drink with perfect moderation. Why is it then that the media and Hollywood present college as a cesspool of degradation? Because the actions of those who buy into the image of college as a chill-as-bro time speak louder than those who enjoy a quiet existence.
You may be wondering why this is a bad thing. Those who are planning on entering the corporate world or politics may appreciate a chance to blow off some steam before the rigors of the world set in. Others may agree that this is bad, but choose a more “each to their own” approach: live and let live. Both of these views fail to acknowledge what I pointed out earlier: the loudness of debauchery overwhelms the quietude of moderation. This translates into a cultural view that college students are all immature partiers that can be taken seriously only when they emerge from this necessarily tumultuous period. It is this that I cannot stand.
Unless you choose to go into academia, in what other time of your life will you have the chance to pursue knowledge for its own sake? We are at our most creative, our most fearless. It is said that mathematicians produce their most original work before the age of thirty (and commonly in their mid-twenties). The human brain continues to develop until the age of twenty-five. Why are we wasting this time of our lives? What are we afraid of?
send hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
I didn’t write this to attack people who have no complaints about the image of college life. Nor did I write this to discourage you from going to Amherst (it happens here, yes, but also at every other institution). My goal is to give you something to consider as you slowly transition to the real world (college isn’t the real world, btw).
Final points to take away from this:
- Choose a school that will give you the chance to explore and find what is truly important to you
- Remember to take a moment to reflect on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it
Finally, question society’s command to “Enjoy!” But I digress.
Oh, you fancy, huh?
For this week, I have prepared a video blog showcasing just a few of the nice study spaces of campus. One condition of my employment as "blogger" was the completion of at least one video blog to show that, you know, Amherst is hip and happenin' with the technology.
Check it out... if you dare...
Tune in next week; I promise it'll be something cool. (Or tune in next week to prove me wrong.)
Table of Contents
While the articles will be presented in order of newest to oldest, I encourage new readers to start at the beginning.
Diablo, thesis, philosophy
I have the qualifications of being a nerd.
Just look at the pictures. There are barely any words.
Climbing, Bookmill, 3 videos, updates
I climbed trees, ran in the rain, and went to the Bookmill.
|That's SO College||7/9||Applying, critique of college life||
Real talk on applying to college and college life. No pictures.
|Man Vs. Wild: Beating the Heat in the Pioneer Valley||7/17||The weather.||I complain about the heat and the lack of productivity that results.|
|Hiatus History||8/6||My lack of correspondence.||I was on vacation/really warm.|
Milling Around the Pioneer Valley
Writing weekly blog posts is difficult. My summer work days have so far not provided good writing material. I typically work 9-5 in the Admissions Office, then 6-9 at Smith House, where I work for the Annual Fund phonathon (collecting Alumni donations that help, in part, to maintain Amherst’s large financial aid packages). As I get farther into my afore mentioned summer reading, I hope to engage you, Reader, in some form of philosophical discussion (or at the very least stimulate some latent interest in questioning the world). For my blog is intended to be a safe haven of the mind; only a simpleton would write about what they did last weekend.
Anywho, here’s what I did last weekend.
Saturday: Sunny with a chance of extreme torrential downpour
In the morning, motivated almost exclusively by the need of something to blog about, Maria and I went tree climbing throughout Amherst. It started by standing on a rock.
|Yoga.||Maria the Explorer|
We first climbed a nice tree across the street from Newport House (the Spanish and French theme house). Here’s some footage documenting our climb.
We then did some cool posing in town.
|It was hot out||A scary and confusing world without Maria.|
Hey, look, more tree climbing!
Looks like we’ve got a badass over here.
Then the downpour started. I don’t have video or pictures of it, because it would’ve destroyed my camera. Needless to say, I ran from Hitchcock Dormitory, where I’m living this summer, to Johnson Chapel and memorial hill. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was crazy. Just for some perspective, it was raining as hard as that time I set off the sprinkler by accident in Marsh House my sophomore year. For those who are interested, and I can’t imagine who would be, here’s a letter I wrote to the Amherst Student with the help of my friends Terry and Deidre.
Sunday: S**t, the blog post is due tomorrow
Maria and I went to the Bookmill (I’m actually there right now) to write our blog posts and get a nice lunch. It's called the Bookmill because it was once a mill, but now a book store. That's some crazy concatenation.
Another video? Ok.
There’s a dining area to eat really good (albeit expensive) sandwiches.
Look! A study space in a book store!
Legitimately nice place to work.
The rest of Sunday is left to the future (from my current position in space-time).
Diablo: I’ve beaten normal with all five of the classes and have chosen to play toward the inferno difficulty as a monk. Does anyone care about this?
Reading: Ask again later.
Thesis: See above.
That's it for this week. Next week, I'm planning on producing a video blog (or vlog, as the kids are calling it these days) exploring the beautiful and historical reading rooms of campus.
AC au Naturel
I often talk about Amherst’s extensive collection of trails when I give campus tours; however, aside for a few short-lived running excursions, I had never really experienced them first hand. Thus the mission that drove this week's blog post: explore the trails.
Most of this post will consist of photos with cute lil' captions.
Jenna, Dan, Maria, and I prepare for the time of our lives.
We started with the hope of fully exploring the trail network that looks like a sweet pair of shades (since it’s mad bro), but we ended taking some different turns, eventually entering deep within the deer head system.
Put those glasses on that deer and you'll have one chill deer.
Starting out on our voyage, we all hoped to gain a greater connection with nature. After a few yards, I asked them to express how they felt that connection was going.
In Dan's defense, this was right after a fly flew in his eye.
Around the rim of the shades, we found one of the muddier ponds in the Pioneer Valley.
Wait… am I standing on one leg?! That’s incredible.
Of course, no outdoor exploration would be complete without the following exchange:
Adventurer 1: Hey, look, railroad tracks
Adventurer 2: Let’s stand on them
Adventurer 1: Right on (YOLO)
Didn’t even use Instagram or any of that nonsense. It was candid, too.
Like all Amherst students, we were eager for a grueling physical challenge. The off season red-leafed tree beckoned to be climbed, and climb it we did.
Proof of evolution, amirite?
This sentence provides a nice visual break between picture sections, but doesn't really bring anything else to the table.
You'll remember me when the west wind moves / upon the fields of... weeds
We eventually found our way into the Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary. Students normally refer to it just as the bird sanctuary, since, well, there are birds there. Though it can get pretty muddy, it's a great area to walk through and ponder the essence of being.
Funny story about this project. Someone told me that, at one point, too many samples were being taken (or something along those lines), which caused a majority of the birds to leave the area. They’re back now. If this story is wrong, I'll probably get a lot of hate mail from the bio department. If that happens, I'll let you folks at home know.
Before getting back to campus, I had a chance to ask Jenna, a neuroscience major, what she thought of studying science at a liberal arts college. Since this site's article editor makes it difficult to embed video, you can find the interview here.
Move, tennis courts, I want a picture of the college.
Each of the four of us learned something on our walk through nature. Dan learned that he doesn't like nature. Maria learned that she can safely stand on railroad tracks, as long as she listens for incoming trains. Jenna learned that... actually, Jenna probably didn't learn anything.
Finally, I learned that I haven't been lying on my tours and that there really are trails back there. That's a relief.
Be sure to tune in next week for more fascinating looks at Amherst College.
I'm a Nerd.
The first blog entry is kind of like a first date. There’s always the temptation to present yourself as the most interesting man in the world, regardless of whether or not you’re are actually interesting. This blog, however, is real talk central, and I’m gonna be straight with you, Reader: I’m a nerd.
I don’t use this term loosely, and thus feel the need to prove my credentials.
I love blizzard games. As of late, I’ve mostly been playing Diablo III, during which I’ve been testing out each of the classes. Right now, my favorite is the Demon Hunter class, but Witch Doctor is more fun than I expected. One of my personal goals for the summer is to get a hero through the inferno difficulty level. I’ll keep you posted.
Once PvP starts, Imma wreck you.
(Also, I obviously like Norse mythology. +1 nerd pt)
As a math major, I’m often assumed to be some sort of nerd. However, there are many different fields within mathematics, so equally many types of math nerds. Personally, I’m one of the rare breed of mathematical logic nerds. While I’m still finalizing my exact thesis topic, I’m doing reading in advanced set theory, computability, and model theory.
Other traits of nerd-dom that I have include avid reddit reading and xkcd following. I also enjoy reading philosophical works (many of my friends are philosophy majors). The summer reading list I’ve made for myself includes: Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein), Cratylus (Plato), "Other Minds" (J.L. Austin), Sophist (Plato), Plato’s Sophist (Heidegger). I'm hoping to write a little on each of the works once I finish reading them. If you’re interested by any of these works, feel free to email me (again, email@example.com).
Note that this comic reflects a different academic philosophy than that of Amherst (and of me, for that matter). Still funny.
Actually, write me about ANYTHING. Example email exchange:
Long time reader, first time writer. I've got to ask you the question I'm sure everyone's dying to know the answer to: What's your favorite color?
Please forgive my boldness.
I'm glad you're reading my blog! That's a hard-hitting question, and I admire your boldness. The answer is purple. Believe it or not, this was not influenced by the fact that Amherst's colors are purple and white. Of course, I'm sure the conspiracy theorists will say otherwise.
Thanks for the email! Keep 'em coming!
That about wraps it up for this week. In closing, here's a combination of the nyan and keyboard cat memes for your viewing “pleasure.” I like cats.